Great Northern Air Race 2023

With the Wings Dinner and South Island trip, the Great Northern Air Race is one of the longest-standing events on the North Shore Aero Club Social Calendar.  GNAR has been run (almost) every Auckland Anniversary Weekend since 1992 (yup, last century!), and its format hasn’t really changed in that time, although we do need to cap the fleet size at 30 aircraft, purely for logistical reasons.

There are no restrictions on aircraft type, as long as they can operate from the airports, and the handicap system used in the Race Class ensures all aircraft have a chance of winning.  In fact, slower aircraft have typically been more successful as they naturally have more time to correctly frame the photo, and don’t have to slow down as much in turbulent conditions.  This year we even have a number of historic Warbird aircraft joining the fleet.

Every team must enter a race category

  1. Racing (or go fast);
  2. Cruising (fly accurately – time on target is key);
  3. Social.

and must have at least two members – one is (obviously) PIC, while the other(s) are responsible for everything else – navigation, spotting the other aircraft in the fleet (which can be very close at times), taking photos, answering questions.

The first stage will depart NZNE at ~1100 on the first morning (28th), with a lunch stop in Thames, before heading off on the second stage to Rotorua, where we will share stories of the day while enjoying the hospitality of the Rotorua Aero Club.

The start for the first stage is the only start when we send the fastest aircraft off first, just so racers can get used to the system, and from then on it’s the slowest aircraft off first, with lots of overtaking.  Each stage is usually ~160nm long, with each leg between turning/waypoints between 10-20nm (sometimes to be really nasty we have a short leg of 5nm!!). Stage three will depart NZRO at ~1100, heading south to go around Mt Ruapehu for a lunch stop likely to be at Taupo.

The fourth and final legal of GNAR23 proper will take us back to NZRO where we will again enjoy the hospitality of the Rotorua Aero Club before heading into town for the Race Awards Dinner.

Racing on Monday, back to North Shore, is for the Edward Menery Memorial Cup.  This trophy has traditionally been awarded to the team having the fastest final stage of the race, but we’ve introduced a little ‘spice‘ in the last couple of years (for example, this year racers were told in the briefing – on this stage from NZKT-NZDA, everyone will do a touch and go at NZKO and will be given a time at which the aircraft wheels must touch down to get maximum points, and then when you get to NZDA you must land on the grid that will be marked for maximum points, so time to brush off your precision flying and landing skills….).

We are also planning to have the entire race fleet round North Head at 1530hrs (+/- 5 minutes) on that final afternoon, just to add a little more atmosphere to the Anniversary Day Regatta.

GNAR is a lot of F-U-N, and all who have competed agree that it is the highlight of their annual flying calendar – some have hardly missed a race!  But along with the fun is a serious side – safety is paramount and will not be compromised.  Each stage is preceded by a briefing that reinforces that safety message, while also ensuring everyone fully understands what they need to do in that stage.

One last thing – every team must be in costume and in past years it has been left to each team to come up with the theme.  This year will be a little different, we’re providing the theme and each team will then come up with their costume accordingly.  In recognition of the year the royal family has had – what with Her Majesty’s 70th Jubilee and then farewell, along with the continual attention-seeking efforts of her grandson and his wife and that riveting drama “The Royals”, we have decided to make the theme “Royal”.

But there’s no point in having a race without prizes and trophies, and this year winners will also be receiving cash prizes to go along with the trophies that are presented

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more stories, photos and anecdotes of races past, but the first must be with Sue Campbell who not only competed in the inaugural race in 1992 but also organized it, so make sure you follow our Facebook page if you don’t want to miss it.


If you have any further questions please email [email protected]


28 - 30 Jan 2023


All Day


Club Events


North Shore Aero Club
North Shore Aero Club, 300 Postman Road, Dairy Flat 0794, New Zealand


[email protected]
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