Warbirds over Wanaka: Rookie and veteran pilots fly high

This year's Warbirds over Wanaka air show has finished in a blaze of explosions, with a fiery battle recreation.

The event showcases some of the vintage warhorses of the skies, but it's not just veteran pilots in the cockpit.

Clear skies made for perfect formation flying conditions in Wanaka, as tens of thousands of spectators raised their heads to catch the non-stop action.

Among those in the skies was 23-year-old Lucy Newell, performing in a Tiger Moth at her first-ever air show.

"It's a bit intimidating, that's for sure," she said. "You've got to be flying on top of your game, so it's a great experience."

The youngest pilot at this year's event, Ms Newell feels honoured to be in the cockpit of a classic warplane, though she would like to see more young pilots involved.

"I think that more young people should think about it, because they do assume that it's just for the older guys, the veterans."

It's the third show for Masterton's Bevan Dewes, who started flying aerobatics when he was 17, buying a Chipmunk plane a year later.

"Just trying to carry on the legacy of the young guys that were my age back in World War II," he said.

His classic plane was part of the Queen's Flight in 1952, and was the very same one flown by Prince Phillip during his flight training.

"I could not imagine going to war in these aeroplanes," said Mr Dewes, "particularly some of the World War I stuff that I fly. It's like you're just absolutely a sitting duck."

Your odds would be better in a lightning-fast F-16 fighter, visiting from the US Air Force.

Even an old caravan beside the airfield got airborne, in a stunt about the district's battle with freedom campers.

"Somebody turns up with a caravan at Warbirds over Wanaka - we've got to do something about it," said Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult.

But it's the battle in the skies that Warbirds fans most enjoyed, the classic fighters defending the airfield from attack in the show's crowd-pleasing grand finale.