Warbird aircraft to roar over Tauranga this weekend

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WARBIRD: Dave Brown in the cockpit of a BAC Strikemaster. Photo / John Borren
WARBIRD: Dave Brown in the cockpit of a BAC Strikemaster. Photo / John Borren

There's a difference between flying a big passenger aircraft and pulling a loop in an air force jet at four times the force of gravity.

Cathay Pacific pilot and warbird flyer Dave Brown knows all about it.

This Saturday he and former air force comrade Mark Helliwell will put on two displays of aerobatic flying in BAC Strikemaster jets as part of the Classics of the Sky airshow.

So what is that difference?

"Airline passengers don't like going upside down," Mr Brown says with a smile.

"It spills the champagne."

The 56-year-old regularly flies passenger aircraft between Auckland and Asia but flew Strikemasters with the RNZAF between 1978 and 1990 as a trainee and, later, as an instructor.

Apart from his international flights, Mr Brown sidelines as the chief flying instructor for the NZ Warbirds Association and is certified to fly 44 types of aircraft.

He does have his favourites.

"These things are fun," he says of the Strikemasters, "but I'm also in the Harvard aerobatic team, and that's a great aeroplane."

The RNZAF operated 16 Strikemasters as a training aircraft from 1972 until 1992. They are among the top-billed aircraft at Saturday's airshow, but there will be plenty of other aircraft and vehicles on display.

Airshow spokeswoman Diane Jeffery said other highlights were the return of a Consolidated Catalina flying boat, a C-130 Hercules transport plane and a Kaman Seasprite naval helicopter.

Events included high-speed races on the airport runway involving cars, a Suzuki Hayabusa superbike, dragsters and a Nissan GT-R car racing against a Yakovlev Yak-55 aircraft.

Members of the public with deep pockets will be able to buy a ride in a Strikemaster or North American P-51 Mustang fighter from World War II.

The event opens at 1pm, with "live" displays starting at 4pm.

Classics of the Sky: Strikemasters at Sundown

Where: Classic Flyers, 9 Jean Batten Drive
When: Saturday, January 21, 1pm-9pm
Prices: Adults $25, children $15

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