The Fokker D.VIII in flight.

Fokker D.VIII

Shortly after the first flight of the TAVAS operated Fokker D.VIII, I was fortunate enough to fly with and photograph the WW1 fighter from the air.

The small and camouflaged aircraft was not too hard to find as we were watching it from its take off and we soon joined up with it at around 2500 feet above Caboolture in Queensland.

Despite the differing speeds between the Fokker and the camera aircraft, we were able to get into many useful positions to photograph the fighter.

Two things I found quite interesting about the flight were the sound of the D.VIII’s original 1918 vintage engine. Loud on the ground, we could hear it in the cockpit of our aircraft even though we were flying at a distance. It’s also not an easy job to keep it in frame when maneuvering around, not least because the camera gets heavier as the G’s increase!

Here are some of the results of that flight. I hope you enjoy them and can see the aircraft around Caboolture at some point. TAVAS is hosting a fly-in the over the ANZAC Day long weekend.


Gallipoli Air War

The air war over Gallipoli is little known, in fact I knew very little and with the centenary of the ANZAC landings I was interested in finding out what happened in the sky over the battlefield.

I spoke to former RAAF Squadron Leader and now a military historian and author of “Gallipoli Air War” to find out more.

Bristol F.2b Fighter finds a new home at Caboolture.

It’s an aircraft type close to Australia, and the first true “Australian” aircraft operated by TAVAS, or The Australian Vintage Aviation Society. Continue reading

Countdown to Avalon – 4 Days to Go.

Well, we’re here at Avalon and the trade days start tomorrow. Over the past week or so we’ve looked back at what’s been, but now, what’s ahead at the Australian International Airshow. Continue reading

Countdown to Avalon – 15 Days to Go.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be showing you a few of my favourite photographs from the Australian International Airshows of the past. Continue reading

Classic Fighters Airshow, Omaka, New Zealand.




Spitfire Tr.9

Spitfire Tr.9

Classic Fighters is held every two years at Omaka airfield, near Blenheim on the South Island. I’d heard of much about the air show over the years and it had been on my “to do” list for a long time. The reason it’s been on my list is because of the WW1 aircraft that fly there. It’s really the only place, this close to Australia, where you can see these wonderful machines fly.

New Zealand has a vibrant warbird scene and the promise of seeing something that doesn’t fly in Australian skies was a big drawcard as well.

A Chipmunk leads the Fokker D.VII into Omaka.

A Chipmunk leads the Fokker D.VII into Omaka.

We (Rhi and I) arrived in Blenheim early and headed out to the airfield for a scout. We parked near the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre (well worth a look) and the first thing I saw was a couple of Fokker Triplanes. Turning my head a Sopwith Pup and Camel came into view. At that point an aero engine drew my attention to the sky and coming in to land with a Chipmunk was another Fokker, this time a D.VII.

I was in heaven but there was still more to come.

Avro Anson being prepared for display

Avro Anson being prepared for display

Looking back towards the museum were two very rare aircraft being prepared for the upcoming display days, an Avro Anson and new build FW-190. I could tell this was going to be no ordinary show and Rhi was already swooning over the Anson (women?!).

The display days were held over the Easter long weekend with Friday being a practice day with an evening show. The Saturday and Sunday were the official display days.

Friday was amazing. It was a cold morning when we set ourselves up near the flight line. Omaka is an all over grass field and the planes were taking off in two directions, with the light WW1 types taking off from our left to right and the heavier types taking off towards us to our right. This format would continue throughout the weekend.

Sopwith Camel

Sopwith Camel

The day went well with the aircraft flying around but to no particular sequence. There was no ground display (like there would be on the weekend) but that didn’t matter.

A Fokker Dr.1 Dreidecker force landing with a failed engine.

A Fokker Dr.1 Dreidecker force landing with a failed engine.

The WW1 dogfight sequence was truly amazing. Seven Fokker triplanes and the D.VII slugged it out with a Bristol F.2B Fighter, Sopwith Camel, Pups and Triplane and an Airco DH.5.

Watching these small fighters and hearing their engines, especially the Camel’s (as it only had two settings, flat-out and idle) gave us a really good idea of what early aerial combat must have been like. Unfortunately one Fokker Triplane suffered engine failure on Sunday, but the pilot did a great job of getting the aircraft safely down in the middle of all those swirling machines. He did such a good a job I doubt if too many of the crowd actually noticed!

Avro Anson "shooting down" Me-109 (really a Me-108, or Nord

Avro Anson “shooting down” Me-109 (really a Me-108, or Nord

WW2 was widely represented by an assortment of warbirds.

There were two P-40 Kittyhawks, two Yak-3’s, two Spitfire’s, one being a two seater (and yes, you can fly in it – for a price) a P-51 Mustang, an FG-1 Corsair, stacks of Harvards and of course the Anson and FW-190 as mentioned earlier. All the aircraft put on a very lively display (especially the Corsair) and the Anson even shot down a German Me-109 (represented by a Me-108).

Venom and Strikemater

Venom and Strikemaster

There were a number of other vintage aircraft flying over the weekend including a lovely Staggerwing, several de Havilland types such as the Dragon, Gipsy Moth, Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, DHC Chipmunk and Beaver, DC-3’s and a duo of jets in the form of a BAC Strikemaster and a de Havilland Venom. A Stearman also flew paying passengers throughout the weekend and there was an excellent aerobatic display flown in a Pitts Model 12. Formation aerobatics were represented by teams of Harvards and Yak. Both of which were very good.

RNZAF UH-1H Iroquois

RNZAF UH-1H Iroquois

The New Zealand military had four types of helicopter on display; the NH-90, SH-2G Seasprite, the A-109 and the UH-1H Iroquois, which is being phased out.

The RNZAF also sent a B-757. Watching such a large aircraft fly flat-out at very low altitude was rare and appreciated by the crowd. Even the wet Sunday didn’t dampen its display, it just seemed to fly lower!

Omaka was one of the best air shows we’ve been to. It’s well set out, visibility is excellent for the spectator and there’s no particularly bad spot on the flightline. The aircraft are displayed in such a way that it’s a photographer’s paradise. Entry was also pretty reasonable. The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is also a must for everyone regardless of your level of interest in aviation but that’ll be the subject of another post.

I can’t wait for 2015.

Check out our gallery of the 2013 Classic Fighters Airshow below. If you’d like to see more of my photographs, go here.