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NZ Demonstration Team Excursion Comes to Close

Inside the Cockpit

Ambassador Scott Brown, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, and his wife, Gail Huff Brown, tour the Pacific Air Forces' C-17 demonstration team aircraft at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. U.S. forces are participating in the Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide U.S. An opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

As the Smoke Settles

Maj. Richard Smeeding, 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, performs a demonstration flight at the Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 at Wanaka, New Zealand, April 1, 2018. U.S. forces are participating in WOW Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide the U.S. an opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Crowd Interactions

Capt. Jacob Impellizzeri,14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, engages with on-lookers after landing from a training flight at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. Capt. Impellizzeri spent the week performing upgrade training to qualify him as the new demonstration pilot for the Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team. The Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team is in New Zealand for the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, the largest 'Warbird' display in the Southern Hemisphere with four nations participating: United States, New Zealand, Australia and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Showing Off the Jet

Staff Sgt. Caleb Laurent, 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load team chief, shows Ambassador Scott Brown, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, M206 flares used during aerial demonstrations at Christchurch, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. U.S. forces participated in Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide the U.S. an opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

As the Smoke Settles

Maj. Richard Smeeding, 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, performs a demonstration flight at the Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 at Wanaka, New Zealand, April 1, 2018. U.S. forces are participating in WOW Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide the U.S. an opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Crowd Interactions

Capt. Jacob Impellizzeri,14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, engages with on-lookers after landing from a training flight at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. Capt. Impellizzeri spent the week performing upgrade training to qualify him as the new demonstration pilot for the Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team. The Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team is in New Zealand for the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, the largest 'Warbird' display in the Southern Hemisphere with four nations participating: United States, New Zealand, Australia and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Showing Off the Jet

Staff Sgt. Caleb Laurent, 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load team chief, shows Ambassador Scott Brown, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, M206 flares used during aerial demonstrations at Christchurch, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. U.S. forces participated in Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide the U.S. an opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Bedding in the Moonlight

Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team crew members perform post-flight checks after a demonstration training flight at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 28, 2018. U.S. forces participated in Warbirds over Wanaka (WOW) Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide U.S. An opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Putting the Birds to Bed

Staff Sgt. Caleb Laurent, 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load team chief, performs a post-flight weapons check at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 28, 2018. U.S. forces participated in Warbirds over Wanaka (WOW) Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide U.S. An opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand --

The Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-17 Globemaster III demonstration teams depart Canterbury after a week of training and flying for the Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 at Wanaka, New Zealand, April 3, 2018.

“New Zealanders are very professional, they did a great job,” said Maj. Richard Smeeding, Pacific Air Forces F-16 demonstration pilot. “They were very accommodating for us, especially since fighter jets haven't been on the south island since 1984.”

The F-16s drew a larger crowd than usual for the WOW International Airshow. According to Ed Taylor, the WOW International Airshow 2018 General Manager, this year's show attracted 55,000 attendees – in large part to the F-16s’ appearance.

“We were just thrilled to have it,” Taylor said. “When the F-16 was performing over Wanaka, there was not one person doing anything else but watching it. Everyone stopped and looked skyward. Everybody had a huge grin on their face, and that's when I knew we hit the nail on the head.”

The show originated in 1988 and has grown to become the largest Warbird airshow in the southern hemisphere. Taylor says, the U.S. Air Force demonstration teams left a lasting mark on the show's attendees.

“One of our vision statements for the airshow is to educate and inspire,” Taylor siad. “We really did that because we reached out to a different audience with this year's show. The Supermarine Spitfires, Hawker Hurricanes and Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks are from another era and we'll always be enchanted by those aircraft; to a lot of younger people, an F-16 is the Spitfire of their generation.”

The demonstration teams operated out of Christchurch International Airport, almost 260 miles from where the show was held. Even in Christchurch, enthusiasts would line the perimeter fence for a chance to talk with the pilots.

“After a day of flying, we would go walk the fence and meet everybody,” Smeeding said. “We'd hand out stickers, sign stuff, shake hands and just interact with the local populous. It was very humbling.”

The amount of fervor locals displayed reverberated throughout the entire trip, Smeeding said.

“It's unlike anything I've ever seen before,” Smeeding said. “I've seen people who are very excited about aviation and the people here just blew me away with their hospitality.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the WOW International Airshow and featured the fourth appearance by the U.S. Air Force.