P-40K Kittyhawk at the Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow

The Kittyhawk is also known by the names "Tomahawk" and "Warhawk".   It was first flown in 1938, and the first of New Zealand's 297 Kittyhawks arrived in March of 1942.

New Zealanders flew these planes in the Pacific, particularly in the Solomon Islands, where they were credited with shooting down 99 Japanese aircraft.

This particular aircraft was an American plane which was shot down in 1943 in the Aleutian Islands, which stretch halfway between Alaska and Japan.  However, it has been painted with the markings of a New Zealand P-40K which was destroyed during a night takeoff on the island of Espiritu Santu in what is now Vanuatu.

There are about two dozen Kittyhawks around the world in flying condition.


Unfortunately, history repeated itself in October of 1997, when the plane crashed again...


The pilot was a few miles from the airfield at Wanaka and 3000 feet in the air when there was a loud noise from the engine and smoke and flames started coming out of one of the exhausts.


He lowered the landing gear and headed towards the airfield, but decided that he probably wouldn't be able to clear the 30 foot trees which were between him and the runway.

With the plane still travelling at about 100mph, he touched down in a field, but hit a small rise which pushed the aircraft back into the air.


It landed hard, damaging the nose and right wing, folding back the left undercarriage and tearing the engine off its mountings.

By the time the plane stopped, a trail of wreckage extended behind it for 150 feet, and the engine was 15 feet from the rest of the plane, which was sticking in the air at an angle.

The pilot walked away from the crash with only bruising.


The plane belonged to Tim Wallis, who had himself been in a crash just eighteen months earlier.  The wrecked P-40K was sold to an American collector, who is restoring it to full flying condition.   In late 1997 the restoration of an original New Zealand P-40E was completed, so a Kittyhawk can once again be seen over Wanaka.