Wānaka Air Force pilot Michael Williams from Fielding and Christchurch-based aerobatic pilot Andrew Love have been awarded the inaugural Warbirds Over Wānaka Flying Scholarships.
Michael and Andrew were selected from more than 30 applicants for the $5,000 scholarships which have been organised by the Warbirds Over Wānaka Community Trust. Warbirds Over Wānaka General Manager, Ed Taylor, says selecting the winners from such an impressive line-up of applicants was an incredibly hard task.
“Our selection panel was made up of five people and every single one of them had trouble getting the field down to an initial short list of ten candidates, let alone the final top four and then our winners.
Ed says the aim of the scholarships is to give pilots more experience in flying Warbird aircraft with the aim that at some stage in the future, they will be displaying at Wānaka and other airshows. “There has been concern in the past at the age of many of our top display pilots but this exercise has convinced us there is no lack of younger people looking to come through the ranks.
Ed says following the outstanding success of the first scholarships the Trust is hoping to be able to award two scholarships every year going forward, funds permitting.
One member of the selection panel was John Lamont who is regarded as one of New Zealand’s best Warbird display pilots. John says it was such a tough decision. “I must admit I was quite surprised at the number of pilots out there who have such a passion for Warbirds and are committed to flying the old aircraft. Some of the applicants I was aware of but there were many who were new to me who came with very high credentials,” says John.
Thirty-eight-year-old Michael Williams is an experienced pilot and is currently flying the new T-6C Texan II as an A Category Qualified Flight Instructor at the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Central Flying School at Ohakea.
Michael says that while he thoroughly enjoys his position with the RNZAF, his away-from-work passion lies with vintage and Warbird aircraft. Michael hopes to use his scholarship towards dual flight training in a ‘heavy’ WWII piston aircraft.
Thirty-two-year-old Andrew Love runs his own business in Christchurch and is currently vice-president of the New Zealand Aerobatics Club. Andrew has had a passion for aviation since an early age and first flew solo the day after his 16th birthday.
He first visited Warbirds Over Wānaka as a nine-year-old and hasn’t missed an airshow since. Andrew has flown many aircraft types and intends to use his scholarship to become rated in a T-6 Harvard which is one of the aircraft that regularly displays at Warbirds Over Wānaka.
For More Information:
Ed Taylor Mandy Deans
General Manager Event Manager
Warbirds Over Wānaka Community Trust 03 443 8619
027 4307 549