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Gate Guardian

Gate Guardian

Wanaka’s long association with Warbird aircraft is being celebrated with the installation of an aircraft on a pole at Wanaka Airport today.

An ex-RNZAF Aermacchi MB-339CB trainer aircraft has been lifted into place on the pole outside the Warbirds and Wheels visitor attraction at the entrance to the airport by the Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust.

Trust General Manager Ed Taylor says many airports around the world, especially air force bases, have aircraft on poles at the entrance. They’re known as “Gate Guardians”.

“I remember years ago as a kid being intrigued by the Spitfire on a pole at the entrance to Christchurch Airport and I think this aircraft is also going to be a point of interest for generations to come.”

“It’s fitting to have a Warbird at the entrance to the airport given Wanaka’s reputation of staging one of the world’s best Warbirds Airshows every two years since 1988. The installation of the aircraft has been something of a community project” said Ed.

“Deane Fluit Builders, Allied Concrete, Placemakers, Maungatua Contracting, Select Engineering, Wilton Joubert, Warbirds and Wheels, Twenty24, Wanaka Signs, Aspiring Cranes, the QLDC and the Queenstown Airport Company have all done their bit to make it happen.”

The Royal New Zealand Air Force purchased a total of 18 Aermacchi MB-339CB trainer aircraft from the manufacturer in Italy. They were operated by No. 14 Squadron based at Ohakea between 1991-2001. The Aermacchi’s replaced the Strikemasters as trainer aircraft for the RNZAF A4 Skyhawk fleet.

In 2001 the Aermacchi’s were retired along with the Skyhawks following the decision by the Government of the day for the New Zealand Air Force to no longer have air combat capability.
Of the 18 Aermacchi’s purchased, 9 were sold to Draken International, a US-based private defence contractor. The remaining trainers were given to museums around New Zealand.

ENDS

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