An Air Force C-130J Hercules will be making two 4600km return trips across the Tasman Sea to ensure the RAAF’s part in this year’s Wings Over Wairarapa air show in New Zealand will go on despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The RAAF Hercules will participate in the show’s practice day on Friday, February 26, and the air display on Saturday, February 27, flying from and returning to RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney’s north-west.

The Hercules’ crew will conduct an ‘initial and pitch’ before the crowds at Hood Aerodrome on New Zealand’s North Island, before landing the aircraft on the runway and coming to a stop.

The crew will then reverse the Hercules back along the runway, and take off for the return flight to Australia.

The RAAF crew will not be exiting the aircraft in New Zealand to mitigate any risks associated with COVID-19.

Temporary Commanding Officer of No. 37 Squadron Squadron Leader John Ayers said the participation in the air show would demonstrate the RAAF’s capabilities.

“The runway at Hood is only 1200 metres long, so our appearance at Wairarapa will demonstrate our reach and operational flexibility when supporting our regional neighbours,” Squadron Leader Ayers said.

“We often conduct long-range search-and-rescue missions in the Pacific or fly aeromedical evacuation missions for injured people.

“We also have extensive experience delivering aid to Pacific communities affected by natural disasters and evacuating people out of danger.”

The two air forces have a long history of working together and the RAAF support to the Wings Over Wairarapa air show is another example of this strong relationship.

In recent years, RAAF Hercules have integrated with the New Zealand responses to evacuate injured patients following the White Island volcano disaster, as well as delivering urban search-and-rescue teams following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

The RAAF C-130J is the same model that will soon be introduced into the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a replacement for its C-130H Hercules.

This year’s Wings Over Wairarapa will be held in the lead-up to the RAAF centenary on March 31.

“The show has a strong emphasis on historic aviation and our C-130J proudly represents six decades of operations by different generations of RAAF Hercules’ crews,” Squadron Leader Ayers said.

“The air show will also feature historic aircraft similar to those operated by the RAAF, including a P-40 Kittyhawk, Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, and P-51 Mustang.

“The Anson and Tiger Moth at Wings Over Wairarapa are also representative of aircraft that trained thousands of RAAF aircrew during the Second World War.”

Information about the RAAF C-130J Hercules is available from www.airforce.gov.au/technology/aircraft/air-mobility/c-130j-hercules

More information about Wings Over Wairarapa and its flying display program is available from www.wings.org.nz