Wanaka: The success of the inaugural #GigatownWanaka Jet racing at the Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow will likely see the event return to the next airshow in March 2016, organisers have said.
The high-speed racing thrilled crowds of around 50,000 people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as an invitational US team challenged three Kiwi pilots around a course marked by giant inflatable pylons.
The winner was Paul Hughan, with fellow Kiwi Brett Emeny second and Peter Vause third, but the visiting Americans are determined to return and challenge the Kiwis again, general manager Ed Taylor said.
Other highlights included Lithuanian aerobatic pilot Jurgis Kairys flying a Sukhoi, racing against Kiwi Motorsport legend Greg Murphy in a Lamborghini and a special WWI Commemorative event which saw six WWI fighters dog fight over Lake Wanaka.
It was a first for the event to be taken into town and organisers were delighted at the 5000 plus people that crowded the foreshore and surrounding hillsides to witness the event which ended by six blasts from a 25 pound Howitzer field gun.
Bad weather throughout the rest of the country presented challenges to airshow visitors and aircraft alike trying to get to the event.
“One guy who got stuck in the Haast had to detour over Arthurs Pass then got stopped at a slip near Oamaru. It took him 18 hours to get to Wanaka. Jurgis Kairys took two and a half days to make his way down from Auckland, arriving on Saturday only hours before his performance, Mr Taylor said.
Crowd numbers for the three day event were similar to those experienced at the 2012 event, at around 50,000, he said
The event concluded on Sunday evening with organisers honouring 13 people who have been involved with the airshow since its inception 25 years ago. These included airshow founder and patron, Sir Tim Wallis and two warbird display pilots who have flown at every show, John Lamont and Keith Skilling.
The next show dates are March 25, 26 and 27th, 2016.
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Photo: Steve Zimmerman.