Wānaka Sun       

Jet racing to return to Wanaka next Easter

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 01 Aug, 2019 | By Allison McLean journalist@thewanakasun.co.nz

Back by popular demand, jet racing will revisit Wanaka's skies during next Easter's Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

Dubbed one of the most popular Warbirds Over Wanaka acts, jet racing first wowed the airshow's crowds in 2014; it featured pilots from Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America who perform precision flying around a tight race track at speeds of more than 600 kph.

Four of the pilots from 2014 are set to return next year, including Kiwi Paul ‘Huggy' Hughan, who took out the winner's trophy at the inaugural event flying John Currie's Christchurch-based Vampire jet.

“The jet racing in 2014 was such a blast,” said Huggy. “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.”

Brett Emeny from New Plymouth will also return and fly his Vampire, as well as Peter Vause, also from New Plymouth, who will fly his L-39 Albatros. 

Rick Vandam, American pilot and former Reno Air Races Jet Class champion, is also coming back. “I had such a blast on my first visit to New Zealand,” he said. “A beautiful country and such a wonderful airshow. The racing was great, and I've been itching to get back ever since.”

United States Air Force Thunderbirds pilot Paul ‘Sticky' Strickland will join next year's Jet Racing; he made his Wanaka debut in 2018 performing a display in the same L-39 Albatros jet he will again pilot in 2020. 

For more information, visit www.fighterjets.nz or www.warbirdsoverwanaka.com.

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