Whenuapai Air base is actually known as RNZAF Base Auckland and is one of two main air bases for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the other being Ohakea in the lower North Island not far from Palmerston North. Whenuapai is itself in Northwest Auckland near the end of the Waitemata Harbour, upon which the main city has its coastline (Auckland has two harbours but the larger Manukau Harbour is to the southwest). It's about half an hour from where I live.
You can see from the photo above that the base is close to the harbour and surrounded by public roads. There is a decent amount of residential property with Whenuapai village to the lower and Herald Island at the top of the photo. This shot is actually way out of date and Whenuapai village has been tripled in size with most of the green in the lower left now taken up by a new town.
The airfield has two active runways and is home to the bulk of the RNZAF. Nowadays this does not include any strike component. The last A4 Skyhawks and Aermacchi trainers were sold off some years ago and there is little stomach for replacing them with anything else. In fact a few years ago this Australian TV show spoofed NZ's '100% Pure' advertising slogan rather hilariously with this advert pointing out how defenceless NZ is (it's a little unfair, especially to the Navy, but very funny):
A few weeks ago I took the family out for a bicycle ride in which we cycled around the air force base perimeter using the public roads. There is some decent spotting opportunities from the Brigham Creek Road, although I imagine if you stopped and setup camp you would eventually gain some attention. The RNZAF had helpfully put up signs introducing the squadrons present at the base.
The small size of the RNZAF makes movements a rare occurance anyway. Based at the airfield are the following units:
No 5 Squadron: 6 P3 Orions (to be replaced by 4 P8 Poseidons)
No 6 Squadron: 8 Super Seasprites (used with the Navy)
No 40 Squadron: 2 Boeing 757s & 5 C-130H Hercules
Aside from some NH90 and A109 Helicopters that is essentially the whole Air Force! When we visited nearly half the Air Force was on the ramp including both 757s, 2 P3s and 3 Hercules. Heat haze was a problem but to be honest this was more a bike ride than a spotting trip so I didn't really have anytime to do more than get off a few snaps.
One of the interesting things about the base is that the runways end rather abruptly and the landing lights are usually in people's residential gardens or some farmers field. It's all very New Zealand.
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the might of NZ. Please don't invade us! Oh and NG Models please make an RNZAF Boeing 757 :)
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
This site is free. Please donate to keep it going.