Last night, we decided to leap in Jennie's car first thing today and head for Ardmore Aerodrome south east of Auckland. It's NZ's busiest in terms of take-offs and landings as there are helicopter and fixed wing flying schools, plus all manner of other stuff there. Falling in to the "other stuff" category is that it's one of the locations for NZ Warbirds who are dedicated to the preservation and operation of ex-military aircraft in flying condition. Jennie had never been there but was enthusiastic on the grounds of a spirited drive on the Firth of Thames coast road, plus lunch at an excellent cafe not far from the airfield!
Arriving at the Warbirds, we were disappointed to find out that it's only open 3 days a week and today wasn't one of those days. However, there was someone just inside the door who saw us pull up and invited us in anyway - simply awesome!! The lovely guy who invited us in gave us the full run of the place, both inside the hangar and out on the taxiway outside - a wonderful lack of formality which is typical of NZ.
Skyhawk, Aermacchi and something Czechoslovakian in blue camo
I think the CEO would like this Skyhawk rocket pack on her car!
Sharp end of a Skyhawk
Great crest for NZ's 487 Squadron, which flew Mosquitos in WW2
DH Beaver - flawless condition
The aircraft below is a T28 Trojan US Navy trainer, complete with arrestor hook for carrier landings. It has a 9 cylinder radial engine which sounds like it's about to expire because of the odd number of cylinders! The pilot was preparing it for a flight and very kindly invited me up to have a look in the cockpit.
9 cylinder, 1425 hp radial
The Trojan cockpit - more complicated than I thought it would be
Enthusiasts everywhere are so generous with their time and although the pilot didn't know us from Adam, he was more than happy to spend time talking about his passion. The generosity extended as far as being allowed to bring Jennie's car round from the car park to the taxiway and put it right next to the P51 Mustang. Probably not many places in the world you'd be allowed to do that nowadays on an operational airfield! Here's the million dollar shot:
Mazdaspeed-prepared MX5 and P51 Mustang - 2 beauties! Errr... 3 actually.
The Warbirds have many other rare aircraft but a lot of them periodically rotate to other locations in NZ. However, aviation enthusiasts world-wide will have probably seen that the only flying WW2 Mosquito was recently restored in NZ for an American collector. It's based at Ardmore but sadly, we weren't able to get to its hangar. The following fantastic photo recently shown on TV New Zealand of it flying over Auckland in the company of a Warbirds Vampire jet is well worth posting though.
DH Mosquito and DH Vampire
After leaving Ardmore, we headed for an excellent lunch at nearby Clevedon. I don't normally do food photos as our moto-blogging friends from the US and Canada do such a great job but this is an exception.
Iced coffee for both of us, smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce on bubble and squeak (fried mashed potato and vegetable mix) for Jennie and pork belly with Udon noodles and stir-fried Asian greens for me..... both delicious.
Smoked salmon on bubble and squeak
Pork belly and crackling on Udon noodles and Asian greens
After lunch, it was the 150 km haul back to Coromandel on the twisty coastal roads which are made for Street Triples and MX5's. Days really don't get much better than this one!!!
No room for error! Thames coast road
Up into the hills on the coast road
The twisties with Coromandel Harbour and mountains in the background
(Typical traffic congestion!)
And domestic activity will have to wait a bit longer as the boat comes out for a bit of fishing tomorrow. I know....... this retirement business is tough but someone has to do it!
Oh, and nothing to do with today but for the cat-loving bloggers, I took this photo the other day of Annie kitten making herself comfortable under the duvet in one of the spare bedrooms. Awww....
Annie, aged 18 months