Visiting Sir Peter Jackson’s awesome Knights of the Sky exhibition

Last winter I finally visited Sir Peter Jackson’s amazing collection of First World War aircraft at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, near Blenheim. That’s not too far from my home city of Wellington, but Cook Strait makes easy commuting awkward, so the trip took a bit of planning.

Panorama of the main gallery - click to embiggen.
Panorama of the main gallery.

The thing is – many air museums consist of a few prime displays supported by a horde of dusty and tatty aircraft (‘awaiting restoration’) sitting around in a large-ish hangar being ooh-ed and aah-ed at by people like me. But not this one. Well, yes, it’s a large-ish hangar. And yes, it has aircraft in it. But sitting around being dusty they are not.

The exhibition is called ‘Knights of the Sky’. And – well… woah! There is only one word for it. Cinematic. And I say that in the best possible way.

Some are replicas. Others are the real thing, and still others are flyable – including a full Staffel of Fokker Dr.3 triplanes. Other exhibits include a Fokker E.III Eindekker, Pfalz D. III, an R.E. 8, SE5a, Airco DH-2, a DH-5, a DH-4, a Nieuport-24, and more.

Most have been set up to be real – appearing as working, worn aircraft in daily use with their pilots and gunners, just as they were a century ago. Some are set up against full-scale dioramas. Others are organised with backdrops for full cinematic effect.

I discovered that by accident. I walked in and found an Etrich Taube monoplane sitting with gunner and pilot at a funny angle, in front of a backdrop with some small-scale models hung on wires nearby at odd angles and distances. Cool, but puzzling.

Taube monoplane with gunner and crew.
Taube monoplane with gunner and crew.

A little while later I looked back across the gallery – and wow! Viewed from another angle, it looked like this. And yes, that is a real Taube, with life-size pilot and gunner models (all the mannikins in this museum look real, down to stubble, fingernails and eyelashes). You can just see the floor and the spotlights squidging in at top and bottom of my photo.

Achtung! Accursed Englander!
Achtung! Accursed Englander!

See what I mean about cinematic? Awesome? Actually, this museum is beyond awesome. More photos next week.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


6 thoughts on “Visiting Sir Peter Jackson’s awesome Knights of the Sky exhibition

  1. I’ve worked in aviation museums for twenty years now as a volunteer. THAT is one of the coolest concepts I’ve ever seen! Udvar-Hazy, eat your heart out! That place just got a slot on my bucket list.

  2. Those really do look like seriously awesome displays! Nice photographs too. That’s neat that you managed to visit the museum. I’m yet to make it there – but have seen some of the collection, many years ago, before the actual museum opened. Peter Jackson has done a great job sharing his passion for First World War aviation.

      1. A WW2 exhibit as well sounds great! I wonder what they will put on display.

        When I was there for an airshow prior to the museum opening I went for a spin on one of Peter Jackson’s WW2 German motorcycles, complete with sidecar and mounted machine gun!

        Unfortunately I’m yet to have the chance to make it to the WW1 exhibition in the old National Museum but hope to do so before it ends. It sounds very impressive.

Comments are closed.