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'Very special' moment for RNZAF pilot in remarkable restored Warbird

The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) Squadron Leader Sean Perrett will be at the controls of a very special warbird this weekend when the restored P-51D Mustang debuts at Warbirds Over Wanaka.

28 March, 2024

Ohakea-based Squadron Leader Perrett has nearly four decades of flying experience and is Flight Commander of the Air Force Heritage Flight – where Biggin Hill Trust aircraft are flown by RNZAF pilots.

Former RNZAF P-51, serial number NZ2423, built in 1945, spent 56 years in a farm shed near Nelson before the trust restored it to flying condition last year. 

“It was one of 30 P-51D aircraft delivered to the RNZAF at the end of the Second World War,” Squadron Leader Perrett said. 

“When the aircraft was sold it had flown only about 260 hours which must make it one of the lowest-time Mustangs in the world and one of the few still with its original engine.

“I’ve been flying at Warbirds since 2004 and flying any type of warbird is a privilege, but to be flying in the debut of an ex-RNZAF Mustang as a serving RNZAF pilot is very special,” he said.

Squadron Leader Perrett said some people thought such aircraft were so valuable that they should be put safely in a museum and never flown. 

“But I think that it’s important for people to see and hear them flying.” 

Also taking part in the Heritage Flight display at Wanaka will be a 1944 Spitfire Mk IX flown by Squadron Leader Stuart Anderson.

Every RNZAF aircraft type will be seen at Warbirds Over Wanaka, some conducting flying displays, others on static display for the public to get up close, and some providing transport support to the biennial event.

Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Darryn Webb, said events such as Warbirds Over Wanaka provided an opportunity for the RNZAF to display its aircraft capability, showing how it can support the people of New Zealand. 

“Domestic airshows and display activities enable the RNZAF to inspire, educate and engage with the communities they serve,” he said. 

“Not only do they allow for the demonstration of skills and capabilities of the RNZAF, they also support the preservation of the RNZAF’s history.” 

Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow is held from Friday 29 March to Sunday 31 March at Wānaka Airport.