2017 Aviators

David Phillips learnt to fly in Gisborne during the early 1970's in a localCFNZ-Airshow-Web-banner-2017

Display Pilots at the Airshow
Many of the pilots flying displays have military aviation backgrounds, some are current or former airline pilots including captains of Airbus A 320s, A330s or A340s, or Boeing 777s. Some are commercial helicopter pilots. Others have learned to fly sport or aerobatic aircraft for their own personal use. Irrespective of their backgrounds, one thing they all have in common is that they love to fly. 

Let's meet them here...
One of the best known pilots is the Airshow Display Director Keith Skilling. Keith was born in Christchurch but currently lives locally at Katikati. He joined the RNZAF straight from school and graduated as a pilot into the 'transport' role where he flew the Dakota, Hercules, Bristol Freighter and had a spell of instructing on the Harvard and Strikemaster. His final posting was Commanding Officer of No1 (Andover) SQN, before leaving the RNZAF to join Air New Zealand.

He retired from Air New Zealand in 2012 after 34 years as a Boeing 777 Captain having flown the F27 and Boeings 737,747,and 767. Keith has been heavily involved flying Warbirds since becoming a foundation member of NZ Warbirds in 1979. He is a test pilot for most WWI and WWII types and has been flying airshows in Europe since 1994 including 5 years with the Breitling Fighters Team. Last airshow he was hugely privileged to share the test flying of the Mosquito, and this airshow he will be flying the Corsair.
Keith Skilling(copy)

David Phillips learnt to fly in Gisborne during the early 1970's in a local flying school. He subsequently joined the RNZAF and graduated as a strike pilot flying Strikemasters and Skyhawks based at Ohakea. After several years service he left the RNZAF to fly charter work and general aviation in New Zealand before joining Cathay Pacific airlines, where he is currently an Airbus A330 Captain.

Dave is very well known in the Warbird and Vintage aircraft display scene in New Zealand, being a test pilot of all De Havilland types including the Mosquito. He owns and displays several aircraft types including the Hawker Hunter that he starred in here at the 2012 Classics of the Sky Airshow.  He has had a long association the Tiger Moth and his displays in it are legendary. We are privileged to have him perform one of those here in 2014.
David Phillips(copy)
Steve Geard learnt to fly 
Craig Mossman learnt to fly   
Dave Brown learnt to fly   
Mark Helliwell learnt to fly   
Iain Chapman learnt to fly   
Russel Harris learnt to fly   
Chris Snelson learnt to fly   
Geoff Cooper was born in New Plymouth and joined the RNZAF in 1967 as an airframe fitter. He soon graduated to a pilots course and on completion of his "Wings Course" was posted to No 42 SQN to fly Dakota's. He spent 12 years in the RNZAF flying mainly the Dakota and C130 Hercules, before joining Air New Zealand in 1979. He has been with Air New Zealand for 34 years and has flown the F27 and all of the Boeing types (737,747,767,777,) and is currently a Captain on the B777.

Geoff joined NZ Warbirds and the Dakota syndicate in 1999 and has been displaying it, and checking and training in it ever since. After 26,000 hours of flying, he will be displaying it, still enjoying the pleasure and satisfaction of flying a classic aeroplane that has the romance of yesteryear and is truly 'fly by wire'.
Geoff Cooper(copy)
Liz Needham is New Zealand's most experienced woman pilot. She first went solo on St Valentine’s day in 1974, thus starting a long love affair with aviation. From her Aero club beginnings she has built up one of New Zealand's premier aviation training establishments and has continued on to where she is currently a Boeing 767 Captain for Air New Zealand. In her spare time she has become a huge influence within the general aviation and NZ Warbird scenes, amassing over 25,000 hours of flying, a lot of it using her A category instructors rating. This rating is awarded to the top instructors in New Zealand, and Liz was the first female pilots to achieve this.

For many years now she has flown her own Harvard in the Roaring Forties aerobatic display team as well as displaying her P40 Kittyhawk. As Frank is the President of New Zealand Warbirds, Liz rightly wears the name tag, "First Lady". We are proud to have Liz here today to fly her Kittyhawk and fly as 'No 2" in the Roaring Forties.
Keith Skilling Liz Needham Stu Goldspink IMG 8107(copy)

Stuart Goldspink aka “Spinkers” is a third generation British aviator. He learnt to fly in New Zealand, aged 17 ½ and on returning to UK towed gliders at Dunstable to get his hours for his commercial license .

In 1986 he appeared in the feature film Biggles flying a Stampe biplane and the 450 Stearman. The first real Warbird Stuart flew was the 1918 Nieuport 28. He was invited to fly for the Fighter Collection at Duxford,  and here flew the “Jug” P47 Thunderbolt. He has also flown the P40 Kittyhawk, Spitfire, Corsair, Sky Raider, Mustang, Hurricane (he has flown 7 of the 13 airworthy Hurricanes in the world)  and the list goes on with more than 150 aircraft types in his log book.

His day job is Captain with Thomson Airways, flying Boeing 767/757. Stuart has built or rebuilt two Pitts Specials and now starting on an S2A. He has a Boeing Stearman project for his old age.

Stuart travels to New Zealand to display various aircraft here outside the UK display season, and today expect to see him display the Nieuport and a Stearman.
Graham Bethell, who owns and flies the P 51 Mustang NZ 2415 is a former RNZAF pilot. He joined up in 1968 and during his RNZAF career flew Harvards and Devons in training, and then Vampires and A4 Skyhawks in a strike role. In 1974 Graham joined Air New Zealand flying DC8s, and DC10s until he joined Cathay Pacific in 1979. He spent 20 years with Cathay, initially flying Boeing 707s and later Boeing 747s. Graham also trained pilots on the B747s and has 10,000 hours logged on them. Freedom Air was Graham’s next airline where he spent five years from 2000 training pilots on Boeing 737s.
Graham’s Warbirds experience includes not only the Mustang but also Harvard, Catalina, Mig15 and Hawker Hunter aircraft.  His flying hours logged now total more than 18,000 hours.

Display Teams

One of New Zealand’s iconic display teams is the Harvard team. First flown by the RNZAF as a Central Flying School display team in 1948, the team became “The Red Checkers” in 1967. Harvards were flown by the Red Checkers until 1973. The RNZAF dispersed the Harvards and many remained in New Zealand. The Warbirds Harvard Formation Aerobatic team was formed in 1979. In 1988 the new team for that airshow season took the name The Roaring Forties Harvard Formation Aerobatic Team. It was lead by Airshow Display Director Keith Skilling.
The Roaring Forties Team for this airshow includes three airline captains, Team Leader Frank Parker, Liz Needham (also Frank’s wife), and Dave Brown. Frank and Liz fly for Air New Zealand and Dave flies for Cathay Pacific. Frank and Dave are ex RNZAF and have flown at airshows for the RNZAF, Frank flew for several seasons as one of the Red Checkers in the CT4B, and Dave flew several seasons as the Strikemaster solo display pilot.   Whilst in the RNZAF Frank flew and instructed on Sioux and Iroquois helicopters, and the CT4 Airtrainer. He flies a variety of warbirds including the P40 Kittyhawk ZK-GAC, and is the President of the NZ Warbirds Association.  Dave flew A4 Skyhawks, Strikemasters and CT4 Airtrainers in the RNZAF, instructing on the latter two aircraft types. He flies and instructs on a variety of warbirds, and is the Chief Flying Instructor for NZ Warbirds Association. Today he flies displays in the Harvard and the Strikemaster.
Rob Silich and John Kelly make up the team. Rob is an electrical engineer and private pilot with a background in competition and display aerobatics. He flies other warbirds including the T28 Trojan.   Commercial pilot John Kelly is a flight instructor on a variety of warbirds, and general aircraft.  John also has a background in competition and display aerobatics.

One of the most colourful display teams is the Yak team lead by Brett Emeny. Flying Yakovlev-52 aircraft, the team includes up to nine aircraft in a display. Brett is a well known Taranaki aviator, whose daughter Fay also flies a Yak 52. This continues a family tradition as Brett’s father was a WW2 Spitfire pilot in Burma.


A group of passionate individuals got together to achieve this dream of creating Classic Flyers to protect the rich and precious history of New Zealand aviation.

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