D-Day 65th Anniversary Event - Tauranga Airport 2009

The weekend of the 6-7 June 2009 was the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France in World War II. As with many other countries in the world, New Zealand had personnel serving in the forces involved in the operations on and above the beaches of Normandy and this year, being a fairly significant anniversary, an airshow/re-enactment event was organised and run out of Tauranga airport to commemorate the landings. I was fortunate enough to get along to see it.

The group of us that attended were flown down courtesy of Carter Hayes, the owner of the local pub, The Whitehouse Tavern, whose Dad is an aviation buff and who owns/runs a vintage aviation aircraft Trust (more on this later) at Tauranga Airfield. We were flown down to the venue in a DC3 on a beautiful, clear winters day and were privileged to witness an day of excellent ground and air displays. The day was topped off for me when I also had the opportunity to catch up with another KR builder, Harry Harris, who has his KR2 based at Tauranga Airport and I was able to have an all too brief chance to see his KR2 and speak to him about it.

The main focus of the day consisted of two re-enactment events representing a battle from the World War II era and another from the Korean war era. The re-enactment enthusiasts appeared to have a great time and really got into the swing of things. They obviously spend many hours and much money putting together their collections of uniforms, weapons and vehicles. The local warbirds aircraft fraternity also entered into the spirit of the event giving the whole day great spectator appeal. The event was not widely advertised as it seemed to be more aimed at the participants than for the spectators but it was very professionally run and a credit to all those involved.

The photos that follow are what I took throughout the day with a bit of commentary.

Our chariot arrives through the morning mist at Ardmore airfield in Southern Auckland.
The DC3 is painted in ex Royal NZ Air Force colours but in actual fact was never an RNZAF aircraft.

Refueling in the morning mist made for a great photo opportunity.

The inside of the Dak is pristine and is looked after by a dedicated group of volunteers. The trip down was glassy smooth.
I have been in this aircraft once before when it was not so smooth and it was nowhere near as pleasant as this trip.

Because the aircraft is privately owned, you are permitted to go up and poke your nose in the cockpit and chat to the pilots. My understanding is that all the pilots who fly this DC3 are part owners in the aircraft and there are around 50 shares. Adam, the guy in the right seat, has only owned his share for a short period of time so is still being checked out.

This is Carter Hayes and his son. Carter is the current owner/manager of the Whitehouse Tavern and the gentleman who arranged for the pub regulars to attend the airshow flying down on the DC3. Carter wasn't terribly well on the day we flew down but ever the good publican he didn't let it get in his way.

A shot out over the starboard wing to the Hauraki Plains floating by beneath us.
It was the middle of winter in New Zealand so everything was very green.

After arriving in Tauranga, I made a beeline for the apron where all the warbirds were sitting. This P51 is painted in the colours of the No.3 Canterbury Territorial Squadron of the Royal NZ Air Force. The RNZAF was tasked with maintaining 4 Territorial Squadrons flying Harvards and P51 Mustangs between 1949 and 1957. These were obstensibly maintained to train and keep reserve pilots available as backup to the regular forces in case they were required to combat the rising threat of Communism in South East Asia. Unfortunately the RNZAF found it extremely difficult to keep the squadrons staffed with pilots (I know hard to believe) and ground crew so the the Squadrons were disbanded in 1957.

Another shot of the P51.

In the background you can see the hanger of the Historic Aircraft Trust which is run by Carter Hayes father Maurice.

Just one more shot because I can.

Some of the other aircraft owned by the Trust include this Stearman.

And this Dragonfly. This is Maurice Hayes personnal baby.
I understand he purchased it out of Vietnam and had it fully restored here in NZ.

Down the line you can see three Harvards, a Yak and a Birddog parked waiting for the display later in the day.

And down the opposite side was a line of Yaks.

Shortly afterward the first of the re-enactments and the air displays started.
The Birddog did a fly-over a mock squadron encampment.

The Yaks scrambled to see off the intruder.

Then they formed up to do a display.

This was followed by a Hughes 500 doing a bit of an aerial ballet.
This guy was really chucking the Hughie around.

The Hughes 500 was followed by a Bell Souix helicopter. These only finished being used by the
NZ military about 5 years ago. Amazing the difference in performance between the two types.

After a lunch break the second re-enactment started. First up was a Messershmitt BF108 Taifun
taking off for a bit of Airfield defence (aka an excuse for a few beatups and a display routine.)

The local ground defence force was then mustered. Again the equipment and uniforms were great.

An airborne offensive began with paratroopers (skydivers) dropping in out of the DC3 that flew us down from Auckland.
One of these guys had a malfunction and had to cut-away his main and go to his reserve.

The P51 arrived to see off the airfield CAP.

The BF108 landed and promptly had an engine fire caused by unburnt diesel in the exhaust catching fire.
Very exiting although I dont think the owner of the Taifun was a very happy tramper.

The P51 then did his air display.

Then landed to check on his mate who owned the Taifun.

The re-enactment ended shortly afterwards and I wandered off to have a look at a WAR 1/3 scale FW 190 to see how the undercarriage worked. This is a photo taken of the same aircraft about 18 months ago. I realised when I got home that I had not taken a photo of the aircraft but just the undercart so I have put this one in so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

I got some closeup photos of how the u/c worked as I am still considering making my KR retractable and was curious to how this fitted in the 1/3 scale FW.

While I was photographing the FW, I was told about a KR2 that was sitting in the hangar next door and I wandered in and took some photo's and spoke with the owner/builder Harry Harris. I didn't have very long to chat as the DC3 was about to leave but Harry did show me how he had put together his turtle deck using Divinycell foam cut into strips. It was effectively built using a strip planking method and gave a very neat tidy and lightweight finish. Harry said he built the turtle deck low as he wanted to get as much all round visibility as he could. Effectively the a/c has a bubble canopy.

Shortly afterward we clambered back on the DC3 and headed back to Ardmore. Here is a the intriped team after we got back. Have to say that I had an absolutely awesome day and thoroughly enjoyed myself.