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24 Apr 2024

Christchurch Airport gives wings to Warbirds over Wānaka

While there is no doubt that this year’s Warbirds over Wānaka International Airshow was a sellout success, you could have been forgiven for thinking Christchurch held its own airshow in the days leading up to the event.

The teams at Christchurch Airport worked with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), the United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to enable more than a dozen of the warbirds that wowed the crowds to attend the show.

RNZAF Flight Lieutenant Josh Ahdar says Christchurch Airport is the closest major airport to the show with everything the aircraft needed.

“It’s not just the parking space and the fueling facilities, but the community of government agencies, military and commercial agencies that makes Christchurch the best place to base such aircraft.”

Among the aircraft accommodated on Christchurch Airport’s Antarctic and Romeo aprons were the stars of the show – the USAF’s two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets.  Christchurch also hosted the huge USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, C-130J and the KC-135 Stratotanker which refuels the jets mid-air.

The RAAF’s C-27J Spartan also called into Christchurch on its way to Wanaka along with numerous RNZAF helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Apron and Wildlife Manager Mike Weir says it was a spectacular sight.

“Thousands of people came to the airport to view and photograph the aircraft through the fences. It’s not every day we see machines like that in the city, so they certainly drew a crowd,” he says.

For the team on the ground it was a big week.

“There are lots of logistics involved – extra security, working out where each aircraft can park, what infrastructure they need and ensuring they’re all connected to various teams on the campus, including Airways in the control tower,” says Mike.

Josh Ahdar says there is no way the show would have been able to happen without the support of multiple organisations based at Christchurch Airport.

“Military aviation is tough. Schedules change, plans change and we’re doing things on the fly - literally! The teams at Christchurch Airport just rolled with it – everyone mucked in together and did what needed to be done it was great to see.”

Christchurch Airport chief executive Justin Watson says those involved ran like a well-oiled machine.

“We’re the only airport with the runway, topography and facilities to accommodate these aircraft, and it’s great everyone on our campus worked together to ensure the show was a success,” says Justin.

Feedback to show organisers highlights this was the best Warbirds over Wānaka to date and plans are already underway to make sure 2026 is a hit too.

“We can’t wait to see what the plans are,” says Justin Watson. “We’ll have a role to play and will do so with pride. Our business has long focused on championing Te Waipounamu the South Island. Ensuring events that deliver social and economic wellbeing can take off is just one way we do this.”