Marlborough Magazine March 19 - Page 32

LOCAL FEATURE STORY BY CATHIE BELL DAN KERINS PHOTOGRAPHY Bringing women’s stories to the fore A p r i l 1 9 TH - 2 1 ST - E A S T E R W E E K E N D - M a r l b o r o u g h N Z - w w w. c l a s s i c f i g h t e r s . c o. n z The Classic Fighters event at Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is one of the biggest events in Marlborough’s calendar. This year, it is highlighting the stories of women aviators. Aviation is an industry full of tale-spinners, and many are the stories about ‛the magnificent young men in their flying machines.’ But there’s another group in aviation too - the magnificent women in their flying machines - and it’s this group that is to be the highlight in the Yealands Classic Fighters’ event next month. The aviation spectacular, held every second year at Easter at Marlborough’s Omaka air field, is one of the biggest events in our district’s calendar. It brings thousands of visitors here, from all over New Zealand and overseas, with around 30,000 people going through the gates over the weekend. It’s an amazing chance for people to see vintage and classic aircraft - on the ground and flying - and many in combinations that you just can’t see anywhere else in the world. The event is themed, and this year, the Classic Fighters event is celebrating the role of women aviators. Jane Orphan says the theme was suggested by a man on the organising committee during last year, the 125th anniversary of women getting the vote, and it was overwhelmingly adopted. recruitment, as there are many roles in aviation. bomb them, with the terrified Germans dubbing them ‛the Night Witches’. “They’re looking at more diversity in the workplace, going into schools and saying to girls there are aviation opportunities for their careers. This is perfect - we’re saluting aviation and what’s happened in history, but also saying what’s available now,” says Jane. The PO2 in this year’s event is making its New Zealand debut at Omaka. The New Zealand Air Women’s Association has organised a parade of aircraft, all piloted by women, to fly over Blenheim on the Friday. Jane says it’s not an official part of the show, but it’s a great forerunner of what the show will be like. While people may have heard of Jean Batten or Amelia Earhart, the event is also going to raise the profile of other women. There is to be a Pioneer Race including a Bleriot with someone dressed as Harriet Quimby, an American woman who in 1911 was the first woman to get a pilot’s licence in the United States and then in 1912, the first woman to fly across the English Channel. “It could go across a number of eras, it’s not necessarily geographical. It has lots of potential,” Jane says, the reaction has been very positive. The 1930s Air Race will be a ‛Powder Puff Derby’ as a tribute to the women’s air races in the United States. Amelia Earhart and others competed in these, and despite their serious nature, the press at the time dubbed them ‛powder puff’ races. Many of the big organisations - such as Airbus, the Air Force, Air New Zealand, the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and New Zealand’s oldest aero club, the Marlborough Aero Club - taking part are using the event as part of their The big period of history for the show is the women aviators in the 1940s - during World War II. Key among these is a PO2 plane, as was flown by Russian women aviators - they would power down their engines and glide over German troops to Jane says the Classic Fighters’ programme will have more about the theme and profiles on individual women. One of those is Melitta von Stauffenberg, who was a German test pilot and aeronautical engineer during World War II. She was so important to the war effort that she survived and continued her work, and protected her family, despite being found to be of Jewish heritage and her brother-in- law attempting to assassinate Hitler. In a more modern tribute, the ‛Kiwi over Kiev’, aerobatics champion Pam Collins who represented New Zealand at international championships in Kiev in 1970 will be on the PA system talking the crowd through her routine as pilot Andy Love flies it. Other women pilots flying at the show, such as Liz Needham flying a Spitfire and Dee Bond who may be flying a Catalina, will also be highlighted. Jane says tickets are selling well, “I think we’ll get a good turnout.” Organisers are still looking for volunteers to work during the event’s three days, whether at the show or for service groups managing the car parking. Jane says people can either get in touch directly at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre or online. All the profits from the Classic Fighters event go into the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, to fund its expansion. 33