Thousands of children have quite a presence! I hadn’t expected our first impression of Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome to be one of moving, chattering, laughing hordes as the kids made their orderly, supervised way to the exit. But about 4500 children had been to a special education day that gave them the opportunity to learn about flight science and engineering and to take part in interactive displays and workshops on rocketry, coding, circuitry and other aviation experiences. No wonder they were still excited. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning area was available during the weekend, but this new learning initiative by the organisers, aimed at involving the younger generation (always an excellent idea), saw large numbers of children turning up on Friday.
Celebrating its 20th year, Wings over Wairarapa is held at the Hood Aerodrome in Masterton every two years and is the biggest aviation event in the North Island, attracting some 20,000 people. We’d travelled down in 2017, only to find the show cancelled due to bad weather, and this year, weather once again caused a cancellation of the event on the Sunday. However, on the Friday, although organisers were keeping a weather eye out, it looked like it was all go.
After watching some skilful aerobatic practice and army helicopters lifting off, I wandered along to the war-horse display area expecting to find, well, horses. Instead, an enthusiastic group from the NZ Military Vehicle club and army personnel were demonstrating vehicles and components that had been essential parts of past war efforts. The club, whose mission is to keep the wheels of history rolling and is in its 40th year, holds an annual Easter rally at army property in Waiouru and has several branches throughout the country. Lew Skelton from the Manawatu branch demonstrated the way that a collapsible bicycle folded up so that a parachutist dropped into enemy territory could reassemble it and have a means of getting around. “No, they’re strapped on the front – the parachute goes at the back,” was his patient reply to my query. Lew’s bike was a replica, built at a time when he could not afford an original, and he had also restored a jeep as well as working on an artillery gun. Two large rolling wheels were once filled with liquid fuel and towed behind an M6 transporter – another original idea from the war days, but one that has since been superseded by the use of more conventional methods of transporting fuel.