Held biennially over the easter weekend in the spectacular Alpine-esque setting of Wanaka, New Zealand, the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has long proved to be a sensational event, with people and participating aircraft, traveling from around the globe just to attend. The show frequently offers unique viewing opportunities for its audiences; one such highlight, on occasion, is the sight – and sound – of a Curtiss Kittyhawk firing its main armament (albeit with blank ammunition) during a flying performance. Warbirds Over Wanaka’s organizers have just confirmed that this eagerly anticipated act will feature at next Easter’s Airshow!
The aircraft in question is, of course, Frank Parker’s P-40N 42-104730 which saw combat in WWII with the Royal Australian Air Force as Kittyhawk Mk.IV A29-448, nicknamed Currawong. Interestingly, during wartime battlefield repairs, 448’s fuselage was grafted to another airframe, A29-1050. As a result, the restored Kittyhawk carries 448’s markings on the left side of the fuselage and 1050’s on the right.
Warbirds Over Wanaka’s General Manager, Ed Taylor, believes Wanaka is the only air show in the world where you can see a P-40 firing its .50 cal machine guns, noting: “On the Saturday and Sunday the P-40 will be part of a recreation of the Battle of Milne Bay, a famous Australian WWII battle. However, before that on the Friday we will be having a special one-off ‘firing of the guns’ on the ground to allow fans to get up close and personal for a very noisy experience of a lifetime.”
Taylor continued, stating: “The P-40 guns are something of an only-at-Wanaka thing. They were first used back in 2008 and then in 2012 and 2016. It’s great to have them back for 2022 after the disappointment of having to cancel our last show.”
The aircraft’s pilot, Frank Parker, recognizes how the P-40’s character changes from a quaint old aircraft to a ‘weapons system’ when the guns are fired. Remarking on this transition, Parker notes: “The guns are a bit muted by the engine noise, however the whole airframe rattles – there is no doubt there is some serious action going on. They add a further dimension to the aircraft and the display routine. I’m very privileged to be in the seat and it does give you a very real feeling for how it must have been when P-40s were flying in combat back in the 1940s.”
To help raise funds for the Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust Flying Scholarships, air show volunteers will collect the spent shell casings from where they fall and Frank Parker will sign them for sale to air show visitors.
The Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow will take place during Easter 2022 (April 15th, 16th, 17th with Rides Day on April 18th). For more information and tickets, please visit www.warbirdsoverwanaka.com