The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Whilst I like writing the blog, you will have noticed that we publish in blocks of time, generally with a significant change in scenery being a driver for a new post. I like writing only so much! During our stay with the Sells in Blenheim, Emma and Paul suggested that we make time to visit the air museum at the edge of town and on our last full day with them, we decided to do so, taking Cloe with us whilst the grown ups went back to work.

I can’t say I was expecting much. What we did find blew me away and gets the Centre a blog post all to itself. Here is the link to its webpage. 

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The exhibition halls are split into WWI and WWII. It isn’t a cheap museum – a family pass costs $99 for both halls, $79 if you only want to see one war zone – and I was biting at laying out so much for a single activity. In the end we stumped up the extra $20 for both halls.

Once I walked into the start of the WWI, saw the first working plane, my jaw dropped, I had the first of a great many wow moments and I ceased complaining.

Omaka Avaition Heritage CentreOmaka Avaition Heritage CentreOmaka Avaition Heritage CentreOmaka Avaition Heritage Centre

The museum has had the Sir Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings Director fame) treatment.   He is a very keen plane collector and wanting to do his bit back into his native NZ, has lodged some of his collection at the museum. He also provided the museum with his entire Great War artefact collection which is simply magnificent.  Then he got his film company and friends involved in making everything come to life. Wonderfully set tableaus are built around every plane. There is even a rebuild of the Red Baron’s crash site. Each manikins is to Madame Tousaud standard. The artefacts, photos and information are beautifully presented and of great rarity. There are several Blue Max medals (the highest award the Germans gave out in WWI), huge number of panels detailing, more often than not, the short, tragic but spectacular lives of the aces of WWI. There is even one of the wing panels with a German Cross cut from the Red Barons plane after it was shot down. The place is a gem and I have never seen a better collection nor a better presented collection anywhere. Did you know that Air Marshal Goering of WWII infamy was the third and last commander of the Flying Circus of WWI? I didn’t. The white jacket he is famous for reflects his choice of white painted aircraft he flew in WWI.

Omaka Avaition Heritage Centre

We took three and a half hours just for the WWI collection. It was staggeringly good.

The WWII hall had less aircraft but all are working, each with a drip tray under the engine. Again Sir Peter obviously had a great time doing the place up. There was even a very noisy room with huge double surround screens where you got eight minutes of being under air attack whilst being in the rubble of Stalingrad. Tagged on to that was a short film on just how many casualties there were in the War. Sickening. Did you know it is thought that the Russians lost as many souls at Stalingrad as the UK and US together did in the whole war?

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The last exhibit was a Spitfire, a later Mk XIV that was used after the war in the Far East. It is used sparingly now after a crash landing some ten years ago in which the pilot was badly injured. Omaka Avaition Heritage Centre

If you happen ever to be in the area of Blenheim, can I respectfully suggest you spend a day here at the Centre. You won’t regret it. Your kids and you will come away enthralled, educated and thoughtful.

 Omaka Avaition Heritage Centre

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