Red Checkers History

Red Checkers Harvard paint scheme

In 1967, the "Red Checkers" aerobatic team was first formed with five Harvard trainers from the Central Flying School of the RNZAF. The aircraft were painted in a standard paint scheme of red and white and this led to the team's name. In the 1973, the "Red Checkers" had to be disbanded because of a world petrol crisis.

The team was re-established in 1980, but this time flying with four CT-4B Airtrainer aircraft. Later, a fifth plane was added to the team for solo displays.

In 1994, all RNZAF CT-4B Airtrainer aircraft were re-painted in an overall yellow and black color scheme and this included the "Red Checkers" aircraft. While this created a paradox in that team a named "Red Checkers" was flying predominately yellow-painted aircraft, the original team name has been retained.

In 1999, the team transitioned to CT-4E-model Airtrainers and also received a sixth aircraft.

On April 11, 2009, one of the team's aircraft was involved in bird-strike at the "Classic Fighters" Airshow at Marlborough, but this was fortunately without any major consequences.

On January 14, 2010, the "Red Checkers" lost Squadron Leader Nicholas Haydn Cree, age 32, in a fatal plane crash. The crash occurred about 8 a.m. near the Santoft Forest, 18 kms west of Bulls, while all six "Red Checker" CT-4 trainers were practicing aerobatic maneuvers. Squadron Leader Cree was performing a non-regulated maneuver that he had not been formally trained to do. He had been performing a "Fishtail Pass" maneuver at the time of a crash - a move where the plane flies in front of the crowd waving the tail left and right like a fish. The Flight Data Recorder was recovered months after the crash. It showed that the pilot had already lost control of the plane while the tail of the aircraft was to the right, but that he had persisted again in pushing the tail to the left. A New Zealand Air Force Court of Inquiry concluded that Squadron Leader Nick Cree continued with the "fishtail pass" maneuver, even though he had already lost control, making the plane further uncontrollable. He was flying at a low altitude of 178 feet and speed of 65 knots when he lost control for the second and fatal time.

Then on March 1, 2010, another incident occurred, when two of the team's aircraft touched each other during a training flight. One of the plane's wheels hit the canopy of another. Both planes then landed safely with minor damage.

After these incidents, RNZAF authorities decided to ground "Red Checkers" for the remainder of the 2010 show season in order to conduct a full review of the team's training program.

In March 2011, the "Red Checkers" resumed flying displays but this time with only five aircraft.

On Jan 27, 2012 one of the plane experienced a mechanical failure. Squadron Leader Jim Rankin, who fly this CT-4E Airtrainer aircraft, was forced to land the plane about 100 meters away from the Desert Road, in a tussock-covered area approximately 12 kilometres south of Rangipo, near Waiouru at about 4.20pm today. The plane overturned on touching down, as the pilot was not injured and walked away from the aircraft.

In December 2014, the team was disbanded due to retirement of CT-4E Airtrainers aircraft.

Red Checkers Harvard Red Checkers Harvard Red Checkers Harvard Red Checkers CT-4B Airtrainer, first paint scheme from 1980 to 1994 Red Checkers CT-4B Airtrainer, first paint scheme from 1980 to 1994 Red Checkers CT-4B Airtrainer, first paint scheme from 1980 to 1994 Red Checkers CT-4E Airtrainer, present paint scheme from 1994 Red Checkers CT-4E Airtrainer, present paint scheme from 1994 Red Checkers CT-4E. Jan 27, 2012 accident

Aerobatic Teams