The Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has just announced that a relative newcomer to New Zealand’s warbird scene, former Reno Racer Yakovlev Yak-3UR Steadfast, will debut at this year’s event held in Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island between April 15th and 17th 2022. As it happens, Steadfast was originally scheduled to make her first Warbirds Over Wanaka appearance during 2020 but, as everyone knows, the pandemic forced that show’s cancellation.
Steadfast first arrived in New Zealand during the summer of 2019, following her acquisition by Blenheim-based Mark O’Sullivan and Ronan Harvey. As most will know, the Yakovlev Yak-3 was a potent fighter aircraft in the Soviet Union’s arsenal during WWII, but despite the type having a significant production run, very few original examples remain. Due to the Yak-3’s fearsome reputation for power and performance, the type has enjoyed a renaissance in recent decades with a number of small-run reproduction efforts taking place in both Russia and Romania during the 1990s and early 2000s. Steadfast is based upon a Yak-3UR trainer, one of ten replicas which Avioane Craiova built at their factory in Romania. Unlike the other nine, Steadfast sports a Pratt & Whitney R-2000 7M2 Twin Wasp radial engine up front, juiced with anti-detonation injection, which enabled previous owner, Will Whiteside, to set a world air speed record for its class in 2011. Whiteside regularly competed with Steadfast in the Unlimited Class at the Reno Air Races between 2006 and 2012.
In 2013, the aircraft moved to Australia where it flew for a few years before moving again, this time across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand during the summer of 2019.
Co-owner, Mark O’Sullivan, is excited to have Steadfast in New Zealand and can’t wait to show her off for the first time at Wanaka, noting: “This aircraft has it all with her beautiful lines betraying what can be brutal performance. The addition of a great smoke system means this aircraft will be something of a show-stopper at Wanaka!”
Coincidentally, Steadfast will be one of two Yak-3s performing at Wanaka in 2022. The other example is Graeme Frew’s Russian-built replica Yak-3UA Full Noise 35, powered by an Allison V-1710 V-12. Full Noise 35 has appeared regularly at Wanaka since 2012, and is one of several ‘warbirds’ which will be available for joy rides over the Easter weekend at Wanaka.
Please visit www.warbirdsoverwanaka.com to learn more about the air show, available joyrides, or how to book advance tickets.