Taranaki pilot Brett Emeny was so disappointed there was no Warbirds airshow in Wanaka this Easter weekend, he put on a short show anyway, in his 1953 T-28 Trojan.
Mr Emeny is a regular Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow display pilot and six members of his immediate family, across three generations, are aviators.
He was part of a large group of North Islanders who flew in to Wanaka Airport regardless of the show being cancelled.
“A lot of friends were coming down because accommodation was still there.
“We thought we would come down and catch up with everybody and should bring some notable aircraft with us, as we really wanted to support the show. They do such a fantastic job setting up the show for us all to play at. So we thought we should bring bring the Trojan, make a bit of noise and create a bit of interest,” Mr Emeny said shortly before his first display late Friday afternoon.
He promised the group would return for the 2024 show “with bells on”.
“We had about 16 aircraft we had arranged to come down to this airshow, including the Catalina Flying Boat and the Yak aerobatic team and it goes on and on . . .
“ should be a big show having been six years as a gap, so we’re really look forward to that.”
Mr Emeny started his aviation career in gliders, before moving into the helicopter industry.
His father Cliff was a World War 2 Mosquito fighter bomber pilot, his older brother Craig owns Air Chathams while his nephew Duane is Air Chathams chief executive.
His brother John is a pilot while yet another brother Derek is an aviation accident assessor. Mr Emeny’s daughter Faye is a newly-minted member of the Yak-52 aerobatic display team.
“My whole life has been flying down at low level, mainly below under 50ft, spraying etc.
“And then warbirds, flying this type of aircraft, is a bit of a hobby of ours. We have been involved in that for the last 30years, working our way through the different types of aircraft, from the Trojan, Catalina to Mustang and those sort of things,” Mr Emeny said.
The T-28 Trojan was built by North American Aviation, the same company that manufactured the Harvard trainer and Mustang fighters.
The Trojan was designed to take over from the Harvard trainer at a time when airforces were converting to jets.
Mr Emeny said the high-powered Trojan performs similarly to early jets and has the same shaped windscreen and canopy.
“It was, I think, built in 1953 and this particular one has a hook on the back for landing on aircraft carriers, so was used for training pilots to do that.”
Mr Emeny first displayed the T-28 Trojan at Warbirds Over Wanaka in 2018 and he and his daughter Faye had been working up a low level, two-Trojan display for this year
“It is a real shame we haven’t been able to do that, but we will do it next time,” Mr Emeny said.
Airshow general manager Ed Taylor said he was thrilled to be offered a ride in the Trojan.
It was his first time in that type of aircraft and an incredible experience to be a passenger while while Mr Emeny performed a wingover over Lake Wanaka, he said.
Mr Taylor was delighted many aviation fans had decided to come to Wanaka for Easter anyway, and was happy for the small taste of what people were missing out on if the show had been able to go ahead.
Plans are now under way for the 2024 show, he said.
Warbirds was first held in 1988, and traditionally attracts about 55,000 people over three days.
It has been estimated to inject more than $40million into the Southern Lakes regional economy.
The show was cancelled in January, when events were still uncertain, international travel was still restricted and event managers were concerned about financial risks of cancelling.