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.
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.
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.
See what I mean about cinematic? Awesome? Actually, this museum is beyond awesome. More photos next week.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016