The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is a fabulous treasure of aviation history, and a crowning jewel for the small town of Blenheim in the Marlborough region which is otherwise best known for sunny weather and top sauvignon blanc wines.
Located at historic Omaka Airfield, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is a world-class museum dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of rare historic aircraft, and celebrating New Zealand’s rich ties with flight and the evolution of aviation.
'Knights of the Sky’ - the heritage centre's Great War exhibition - is also an outstanding example of Kiwi innovation, weaving together the story telling genius, high-tech and visual effects wizardry of New Zealand film-makers and an incredible collection of some of the world’s rarest WWI aircraft.
The planes and historic artefacts belong to New Zealand's top film-maker Sir Peter Jackson who was just a boy when he began collecting aviation memorabilia and, as befits the collection owner, the heritage centre is much more than a museum.
The displays created by Wellington’s WingNut Films feature exceptional mannequins by Weta Workshop that are worthy of a movie set - helping bring the collection to life with a multi-sensory theatrical experience and static displays that recount the human stories of the French, British, German, Australian and New Zealand pilots who flew these aircraft.
'Baron's Last Flight'
Among these is the ‘Baron’s Last Flight’ exhibition - depicting the death of Manfred von Richthofen in 1918 - which includes personal items that once belonged to the famed Red Baron.
The collection includes many well-preserved aviation artefacts including a highly-sort-after Caproni Ca 22, believed to be the only one left in the world. Other treasures include a bird-like Taube (dove) an aircraft which has continued to capture the imagination ever since it first took flight in 1910.
Alongside the original and full-scale replica WW1 aircraft, the 3000sqm of display includes memorabilia worthy of any national collection - ranging from beautifully crafted ‘trench art’ through to personal items.
Sir Peter Jackson chairs the 14-18 Aviation Heritage Trust, a group of passionate aviation enthusiasts who manage the extensive collection.
Visitors to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre who want a taste of the real thing can embark on a vintage joy flight. The Boeing Stearman airplane is configured with three seats so that couples can travel together in the front cockpit and share the experience and beauty of flying over New Zealand's premier wine-growing region.
Aviation in New Zealand
New Zealand’s long aviation heritage goes back to the earliest days of human flight. Adventurous Kiwis were among some of the first in the world to fly, and aviation has played a significant role in the nation’s development.
This aviation history and heroes is celebrated in a series of museums and collections throughout New Zealand.
There are notable world-class aviation collections on display in Auckland, Tauranga and Masterton (in the North Island), Marlborough and Wanaka (in the South Island), and some smaller private collections are also open to the public.
Visitors will find are many opportunities to experience and access the magic and grandeur of New Zealand’s varied landscapes from above - on a scenic plane, helicopter or balloon flight.
Marlborough - at the top of the South Island - is New Zealand’s largest grape and wine producing region. Year-round sunshine, and a diverse natural landscape of extensive coastline and huge stands of untouched native forests make Marlborough an outdoor adventure destination.