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Final two retiring P-3K2 Orions to be delivered to Base Woodbourne after South Island tour

The last two of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion fleet are heading for RNZAF Base Woodbourne tomorrow following a close formation flight of the South Island.

30 January, 2023

As of tomorrow, the entire fleet will be retired after nearly 60 years of service.

The flying route includes many towns and cities around the South Island with a close-formation fly-past of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram in Christchurch. The formation will travel south towards Invercargill before returning north towards Queenstown, the West Coast, Nelson and then landing at RNZAF Base Woodbourne.

On board the aircraft will be Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short and Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark, both former No. 5 Squadron personnel who cut their teeth in the Orion.

The service has employed six P-3K2 Orions for airborne surveillance and reconnaissance of New Zealand’s areas of economic interest, exclusive economic zone, the South Pacific, and the Southern Ocean, including Antarctica. 

Over the past six decades crews have found hundreds of missing people drifting in vessels in the Pacific and have been the first to arrive at scenes where natural disasters have struck, both in Aotearoa New Zealand and in our neighbouring Pacific Islands. They have also operated beyond our region in security and stability roles. 

The flight plan and approximate times are as follows: 

Base Auckland - 1000

Christchurch - 1150-1200

Rakaia - 1308

Ashburton - 1312

Timaru - 1322

Wamate - 1328

Oamaru - 1334

Dunedin - 1349

Gore - 1407

Invercargill - 1415

Riverton - 1419

Nightcaps - 1426

Mossburn - 1431

Athol - 1436

Kingston - 1439

Queenstown - 1445

Cromwell - 1451

Wanaka - 1458

Hokitika  - 1539

Greymouth - 1544

Westport  - 1556

Murchison - 1606

Nelson  - 1620

Haveloc - 1626

Woodbourne - 1630

The route is highly dependent on the weather around the Southern Alps, especially for those towns and cities between Invercargill and Hokitika. If the weather is poor, expect a delay of 15-20 minutes for those towns on the West Coast and 30 minutes to an hour at Woodbourne (depending on turbulence).