On September 28th in Wanaka, New Zealand, the local community celebrated the region’s long association with warbirds by placing an Ex Royal New Zealand Air Force jet trainer on a pole at the entrance to Wanaka Airport.
The Aermacchi MB-339CB now has pride of place in front of the Warbirds and Wheels Museum. The Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust organized the event and the Trust’s General Manager Ed Taylor said, “I remember years ago as a kid being intrigued by the Spitfire on a pole at the entrance to Christchurch Airport and I think this aircraft is also going to be a point of interest for generations to come. It’s fitting to have a warbird at the entrance to the airport given Wanaka’s reputation of staging one of the world’s best warbird air shows every two years since 1988. The installation of the aircraft has been something of a community project: Deane Fluit Builders, Allied Concrete, Placemakers, Maungatua Contracting, Select Engineering, Wilton Joubert, Warbirds and Wheels, Twenty24, Wanaka Signs, Aspiring Cranes, the QLDC and the Queenstown Airport Company have all done their bit to make it happen.”
The MB-339 atop the pole is one of eighteen of the type that the RNZAF purchased in the late 1980s as lead-in trainers for the A-4K Skyhawk. They flew with 14 Squadron at Ohakea, replacing the BAC Strikemaster in 1991. In 2001, the New Zealand government decided to delete it’s air-strike capability, and retired its fleet of MB-339s as well as the remaining Skyhawks. The aircraft sat in storage for the next decade, until the government finally decided to part with them in 2012. American defense contractor, Draken International bought nine of them and acquired eleven A-4Ks as well. Draken International returned them to service, and uses them in aggressor training, among other missions. The remaining Skyhawks and MB-339s ended up on display at museums around New Zealand. Wanaka first got their MB-339 about two years ago, and recently refurbished it cosmetically for outdoor display. Inside the Warbirds & Wheels museum you will find also find an A-4K on display alongside a Strikemaster and deHavilland Vampire.
NZ6468, the aircraft now on display at Wanaka flew with the RNZAF until a gear collapse ended her flying career at Ohakea in February, 2000. She was under repair to flight status when the government grounded the fleet in 2001, so further restoration work stopped at that point until the recent refurbishment. Interested readers can watch as MB-339 NZ6468 arrives for hoisting atop the pole via the Warbirds & Wings Facebook page HERE.