John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tauranga air show focuses on enjoyment

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Spitfire at Sunset air show director Andrew Gormlie with the Messerschmitt 108 that will thrill crowds when it dog-fights a Spitfire next Saturday. Photo/George Novak
Spitfire at Sunset air show director Andrew Gormlie with the Messerschmitt 108 that will thrill crowds when it dog-fights a Spitfire next Saturday. Photo/George Novak

A possible world-first format will see Tauranga's Classics of the Sky air show run at the cooler end of the day so punters no longer swelter in the sun.

Instead of the traditional large-scale show run over two days every second year, organisers are trying something totally different, starting next Saturday with Spitfire at Sunset.

Show director Andrew Gormlie said the emphasis would be on comfort and enjoyment, rather than enduring stinking hot days with grizzly children.

"It's more low-key, I would liken it to a Mission Estate concert," he said.

If the low-key twilight show was a success, then a differently themed show would be staged in early autumn featuring jet aircraft.

He said it was a big departure from Tauranga's traditional air shows that attracted crowds of 25,000-plus, and might even be a world-first.

Spitfire at Sunset will double with the Mount Truck Show's 140 rigs when the gates open at 2.30pm.

The aerial displays, starting at 4pm, will include a dog fight between two World War II aircraft, an Mk5 Spitfire and a Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun, with the sound of actual cannon fire. All the elements of other air shows would be there but in a condensed version.

Mr Gormlie said it had the potential to be an idyllic show.

"Balmy weather, a drink in the hand and listening to the sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin-powered Spitfire just as the sun was going down - it couldn't get any better."

Organisers also attracted more people wanting to exhibit their aircraft in the static displays than there was room on the ground to accommodate.

Mr Gormlie said everything was easier with a shortened event including compliance, set-up and finding the aircraft.

However, it still involved a dedicated band of 200 volunteers from Rotary and Classic Flyers to make it happen.

People would be able to select from about 25 food and beverage stalls, including alcohol.

They were expecting a crowd of 5000 to 10,000 people so that running four shows in two years would achieve the same numbers as one big show every second year.

He said big air shows did not necessarily offer more than a smaller show, only multiples of the same things until people felt overwhelmed.

Spitfire at Sunset would also include the Roaring Forties Harvard Formation Aerobatic Team, dive-bombing by a Grumman TBF Avenger and an extreme aerobatic display by Doug Brooker.

Mr Gormlie said the owner and pilot of the Ardmore-based Spitfire was also offering a show special of $3000 for a half-hour ride - $1000 less than the normal charge.

New Zealand was one of the cheapest countries in the world to taste flying in the aircraft that helped win the Battle of Britain, with flights in the UK costing 4000 ($8820).

- Bay of Plenty Times

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