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Wanaka Airshow Inspires Careers

The importance of events like Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow in inspiring the next generation into aviation and aerospace careers has been highlighted by Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck and All Black great Richie McCaw.

As a youngster growing up in Invercargill Peter Beck was drawn to New Zealand’s premier airshow. “I’m a sucker for speed, so the high-speed jets were always what I looked forward to most but I also loved checking out the beautiful old machines as well.”

“Wanaka seems to have the balance right. Having a mix of historic aircraft while showcasing the future of aviation is vitally important to highlight where we’ve been and to show people where they can go if they take up a career in aviation or aerospace,” says Peter.

Richie McCaw’s early inspiration to become a pilot came from his grandfather Jim and his father Don. Jim flew Tempests in WWII and was one of the group who helped establish the NZ Fighter Pilot’s Museum in Wanaka. His father Don was a glider and fixed wing pilot who took him flying from a young age. Since his rugby days Richie has made a business out of flying helicopters.

Richie was at the first Wanaka airshow in 1988 and has attended many since. “For a start they’re a lot of fun but they also show young people, and others who may be looking for a career change, what aviation has to offer.”

Wanaka local Dan Pezaro is another who caught the aviation bug at the airshow. After school holiday jobs working for the Fighter Pilots Museum, Dan joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force serving for 17 years before joining Air New Zealand where he is now employed flying the Airbus A320.

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“Growing up in Wanaka, I knew at those early airshows that I was going to be a pilot and had a dream of one day flying Sir Tim’s warbird aircraft.” Dan is on his way to realising that dream having recently obtained a rating in the T-6 Harvard and flying WWI aircraft at Masterton.

Meanwhile, all three members of the Wanaka Airshow Display Direction team trace their aviation roots back to early airshows. Display Director Scott McKenzie was a regular at the early Wanaka shows and following a military career is now an aviation consultant. Assistant Display Director Lachlan Falconer remembers Wanaka cementing his passion for flying which he does as often as he can when he’s not being an Air Traffic Controller. And Display Planner Andy Love is a self-confessed aviation tragic and says Wanaka 1994 did it for him. “I’ve never missed a Wanaka show since,” says Andy.

Around 80 aircraft will be on display at Wanaka next Easter ranging from the likes of the Spitfire, Corsair and P-51 through to modern military and civilian aircraft. Alongside the aerial action the airshow will also feature a Future of Aviation exhibition where visitors can check out companies showing off new technologies which will power flight in the decades to come.

For more information and tickets visit

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