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Dunedin pilot gears up for a special flight above Wānaka

Flying in the skies above Wānaka will be a very special experience for Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 Hercules co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Angus Knox.

26 March, 2024

Growing up in Dunedin, the 31-year-old spent every holiday at the lakeside Central Otago town, and now gets to fly over the spectacular landscape as part of Warbirds Over Wanaka.

“I’ve had a connection to Wānaka my entire life and my parents now live there in our long-term holiday home. It’s a special place to me.”

He’s set to co-pilot a C-130H (NZ) Hercules on the fleet’s final airshow before the aircraft are retired early next year.

 “As a pilot, I haven’t had a chance to land a Hercules there yet, so I’m excited about that as it’s always a really special place to fly,” Flight Lieutenant Knox said.

“I’ve only been flying the C-130H for a couple of years but it’s a special aircraft to fly, with such a big flight deck.

“There’s heaps of camaraderie with the crew and it’s really special to be a part of history with the aircraft type, and it’s a privilege to stay until the end of an era.”

Flight Lieutenant Knox said he’d wanted to be a pilot since his childhood, and follow some family footsteps into the Air Force.

His uncle flew for No. 42 Squadron and the RNZAF’s aerobatic display team the Red Checkers; the predecessors to the modern-day Black Falcons.

“I was working as an agriculture consultant, but I’ve always had an interest in flying and decided it was time to change, so I joined the Air Force in 2017.

“My uncle was in the RNZAF, and my granddad served in World War II as well, flying Mosquitos as a night fighter based in the UK,” Flight Lieutenant Knox said.

His family will be close by coming along to support him flying in his first airshow.

“When you’re flying you’re not really aware of the crowd, but the flying itself is really exciting and I know my family will be there watching,” he said.

Every current RNZAF aircraft type will be seen at Warbirds Over Wanaka, subject to availability.

Some will carry out flying displays, while others will be on static display for the public to get up close to. Some will be working to provide transport support to the biennial event.

The Air Force Heritage Flight will also be at Wānaka, including a recently restored P-51 Mustang in its first public flying display.

Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Darryn Webb, said airshows like this supported the preservation of New Zealand’s aviation past and present.

“They provide an opportunity for the NZDF to display its aircraft capability, showing how it can support the people of New Zealand. Domestic airshows and display activities enable the NZDF to inspire, educate and engage with the communities they serve.

“Not only do they allow for the demonstration of skills and capabilities of the NZDF, they also support the preservation of the NZDF’s history,” Air Vice-Marshal Darryn Webb said.

A new RNZAF P-8A Poseidon will also be seen in action for the first time, demonstrating a simulated raft drop with a low pass down the airfield.

As part of its final airshow outing, the retiring fleet of Hercules will also be celebrated with a Formation Thunder flypast, handling display, the RNZAF’s Kiwi Blue parachute display and a lakefront flare drop that promises to be spectacular.