The world’s fastest motor sport will be taking centre stage at next Easter’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow (WOW). Jet Racing, featured at WOW for the first time in 2014, with high-performance jets racing around a tight aerial race-course marked out by large inflatable pylons staked to the ground.
Hamilton-based pilot, Paul ‘Huggy’ Hughan, won the first Wanaka Jet Racing Championship back in 2014, flying John Currie’s Christchurch-based former RAAF deHavilland Vampire T.35 A79-649. Paul is returning in 2022 in an attempt to win the trophy for a second time. Speaking about that race, Huggy Hughan noted: “The jet racing in 2014 was such a blast. A chance for a group of very experienced pilots to test their skills and aircraft against each other. While we were fierce competitors on the race track, we were all good friends once the aircraft were back on the ground.”
Chasing Paul hard around the circuit next year will be fellow Vampire pilot Brett Emeny (in former Swiss Air Force T.55 U-1225), from New Plymouth; Tauranga’s John Mathewson flying an L-39 Albatros and Auckland-based Dave Brown at the controls of a BAC Strikemaster. Paul, John and Dave are all ex-RNZAF A-4 Skyhawk drives, while Brett is a highly-experienced formation aerobatic pilot across many warbird types.
Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager, Ed Taylor, noted how his team had planned to bring back this event at the 2020 Airshow which had to be cancelled at the last minute because of COVID.
“We know this was so popular back in 2014, and after the disappointment of 2020 we’re rapt we’re able to stage it next Easter. The sight of these aircraft hurtling around the race-course at high speed is something to be seen.” He feels that the tight course the aircraft will be flying means that the jets will be in view of air show center for the entire length of each lap, so visitors will get to see all of the passing manoeuvres as they occur.
Taylor also confirmed that Universal Developments has returned as a sponsor for the Jet Race after the 2020 Airshow cancellation, noting that: “It’s the continuing support of people like Lane Hocking and his team at Universal Developments which has made the recovery from that cancellation possible.”
The jets will race each day of the Airshow’s three days, gaining points towards their ultimate finish in the competition; the winner being the most consistent performer overall.
Graeme Frew’s Yakovlev Yak-3 Full Noise will serve as the pace-plane for the race. Frew is no stranger to the sport having twice competed with distinction in the Unlimited Class Gold finals at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada – the holy grail of air racing.
If watching the Jet Racing isn’t enough, Airshow patrons can book the ride of a lifetime in one of the participating aircraft. To check out and/or arrange your rides, please visit www.fighterjets.nz to book a flight in the L-39 Albatros Jet in Wanaka next Easter. Similarly, rides can also be booked in Graeme Frew’s Yak-3 at www.fighterflights.co.nz.
For more information and tickets to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Warbird event, taking place over Easter Weekend 2022 (April 15th thru 17th with Rides Day on April 18th) please click HERE.