If you are in Blenheim don’t miss Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre Knights of the Sky exhibition, featuring Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of WW1 aircraft and artifacts. You will be amazed as soon as you walk through the door into the semi darkness – the atmosphere is intense, the figures life like, the mud and snow look real, the planes and artifacts fascinating!
This story of aviation in the Great War is brought to life in sensational sets created by the internationally acclaimed talent of WingNut Films and Weta Workshop. The theatrical treatment is both innovative and visually stunning. Captivating scenes depict the aircraft in context, sometimes recreating an incident that actually happened in the war. Rare memorabilia is on display, worthy of any national collection and ranges from beautifully crafted ‘trench art’ through to personal items belonging to the famous Red Baron himself.
Built as a two-seat day-bomber the D.H.4 was another successful design from the design office of Geoffrey de Havilland. So successful was the D.H.4 in fact that it outlived the First World War to be built in large numbers under license as a utility aircraft in the USA.
The aircraft on display is one of the American built examples and features a US-manufactured Liberty V-12 engine of 400 hp. Early long distance air mail routes were pioneered through remote parts of the USA using D.H.4s and the young Charles Lindbergh spent much of his early flying career as an air mail pilot flying aeroplanes just like this one.
A German scout of the mid-war period the Halberstadt D. series of single-seat fighters never quite achieved the success of their contemporaries from Albatros and Fokker. The aircraft nevertheless did its job and for a brief period in 1917 when his Albatros D.III was under repair, Manfred von Richthofen used a Halberstadt temporarily, but long enough to add another six victories to his tally. The aircraft seen here is a full size reproduction which maintains a current Certificate of Airworthiness. It is the World’s only representative example of a Halberstadt fighter.
Few machines of the war period would be considered as distinctive as the Fokker Dr.I ‘Dreidekker’ or ‘Triplane’. This agile little fighter was made famous by the successes of ‘The Red Baron’ and his fellow pilots of the famous ‘Flying Circus’.
This part of the AHC display is home to no fewer than FOUR examples of this remarkable little machine. Since the last surviving original Fokker Triplane was destroyed when the Berlin Museum was inadvertently destroyed by RAF bombing during WW-II, these are all carefully crafted reproductions, built to original dimensions and techniques, and kept in current flying condition.
Easily the most photographed exhibit at the AHC is the ‘aeroplane in a tree’ display. Here we see a Royal Flying Corps Nieuport biplane that has been damaged in a dogfight with a German Siemens Schukert. The Nieuport has crashed in a large tree and the pilot has managed to clamber down where he has been greeted warmly by the German flyer who has landed nearby.
A story to make all New Zealanders proud is that of Kiwi pilot Keith Logan ‘Grid’ Caldwell. A successful combatant and highly respected leader, Grid Caldwell became New Zealand’s highest scoring ace with 25 aerial victories to his credit. The display shows an amazing episode in Caldwell’s story in which he managed to regain control of his SE5a fighter after it was crippled in a mid-air collision, managing to stabilise it by placing himself half in and half out of his cockpit for just long enough to nurse it back to the lines and jump clear just as it was about to crash. Caldwell survived his fall, and the war, and was C.O. Of RNZAF Base Woodbourne for the first half of the Second World War!
ROYAL AIRCRAFT FACTORY R.E.8
The RAF R.E.8 was built in considerable numbers and proved a necessary if not ideal workhorse. Just two R.E.8s survived the ravages of time and these are displayed in museums in London and Brussells. The aircraft displayed here is a reproduction built exactly to the original 1916 specifications here in New Zealand.
First flown in November 1916, the Breguet 14 series proved so successful that they remained in production for 10 years, some 8,000 being completed. Two original examples are known to survive, one in France, the other in Finland.
Designed by Glenn H. Curtiss, the beautiful flying boat on display (c/n NC 903 and US Navy A-5543) is one of only four examples known to exist. Manufactured by Naval Aircraft Factory at its facility in the Philadelphia Navy Yard it was the 61st built from a batch of 80. Little is known of this boat’s early history but it was almost certainly operated at a Naval Aviation training station and thereafter released for sale as surplus sometime in the early 1920s.
These poppies commemorate 100 years since the Anzac Gallipoli landing. ETRICH TAUBE
At the time war broke out in Europe, Austrian designer Igo Etrich’s elegant Taube had already been a successful aircraft for four years, having first flown in 1910. Harking back to the centuries of man wanting to ‘fly like a bird’, the Taube (Dove) has the distinction of being the most bird-like of any successful aeroplane ever built. This is one of the most dramatic exhibits. The aircraft is displayed as though flying in formation with another Taube, at height above a huge photographic background. It is under fire from a British Be2c and the observer is twisting round to fire his rifle back at the attacker.
Constructed in 1915, the Morane-Saulnier Type BB was a small two-seat biplane. Intended for the reconnaissance role, the aircraft carried a crew of two, pilot and observer. Only one example of this little known aircraft survived, albeit in incomplete condition. The aircraft displayed here is a reproduction and is presently the world’s sole intact example.
This prize exhibit has the distinction of being the only Caproni Ca 22 remaining in the world. Until 2006 it was the property of the Caproni Museum in Italy, established by Gianna and Timina Caproni in 1929. The machine can be described as a virtual time-capsule, as it has changed very little on the past 85 years, most spent in storage. Produced from 1913, the Caproni Ca 22 was configured as a parasol monoplane, meaning that the wings were perched above and separate from the fuselage, just like a lady’s parasol or umbrella. It served as a two-seat observation aircraft and also carried out bombing operations over enemy territory along the Austrian border.
A Boeing Stearman – taking passengers on a scenic flight
Located in Marlborough just minutes from the centre of Blenheim, open daily, (except for Christmas and Boxing Days)
Many thanks to Omaka Heritage Centre for the very nice reply I received, allowing me to use some of the text from their website for this post, I really appreciate it.
Scheduled guided tours operate twice daily at 10.30am and 2.00pm or enjoy the exhibition at your leisure.
You can get details of pricing etc from http://www.omaka.org.nz