Next weekend's Wings over Wairarapa festival will feature a special flyover – giving New Zealanders a chance to see a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress in action.

An American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, designed and built by Boeing, the B-52 has been operated by the US Air Force (USAF) since the 1950s.

The bomber has a typical combat range of more than 14,080km without aerial refueling and will travel more than 12,000km from Guam to New Zealand.

It will make its New Zealand debut at Wings Over Wairarapa's 20th Anniversary Air Festival, which takes place in Masterton from February 22 to 24, before heading to its next destination in Australia.


Wings Chair, Bob Francis, said it was a rare opportunity to see a military aircraft of this size and significance in New Zealand.

"If you want power, noise, the ground shaking type of experience, then the B-52 will give that to you in spades."

"We've had excellent support from the United States Embassy over several months, enabling us to get the B-52 to our Air Festival."

Scott Brown, the US Ambassador to New Zealand, said the US was happy to help provide the aircraft for the festival.

"When we got this request from the local organisers, the Embassy was happy to do all that we could to facilitate," he said.

"The plane's participation means the crew is flying a considerable distance out of their way but it has been our pleasure to contribute and build on the airshow's past successes."

The B-52 will perform a flyover past Hood Aerodrome on February 23 at 2pm – but is unable to land on the runway due to its weight.

Immediately after the flyover, the bomber will head straight off to the Avalon Air Show in Australia, without landing in New Zealand at all.

A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress as it drops its payload of bombs on a target near Bien Hoa Air Base, Vietnam in 1966. Photo / Getty Images
A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress as it drops its payload of bombs on a target near Bien Hoa Air Base, Vietnam in 1966. Photo / Getty Images

Beginning with the successful contract bid in June 1946, the B-52 design evolved from a straight wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52 with eight turbojet engines and swept wings. The bomber is capable of carrying up to 32,000kg of weapons.

The B-52 made its maiden flight in April 1952 and has been in active service with the USAF since 1955. It's since become a veteran of several wars, most notably in Vietnam – and is expected to serve into the 2050s.

Wings over Wairarapa

The Wings over Wairarapa Air Festival at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton is the largest aviation event in the North Island and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The beautiful Wairarapa region provides a stunning backdrop to an extravaganza of aerial action over three days: 22, 23, 24 February 2019.

The festival will feature WWI, WWII aircraft, modern military, agricultural, helicopters, gliders and civil aircraft on display and in the skies.

Groundside features dedicated zones for technology, space, rocketry, drones, family entertainment, food and beverage and retail.