30. See Sir Peter Jackson’s private aviation collection
New Zealand offers countless iconic experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the world: here is No. 30 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
If Sir Peter Jackson is behind it, there’s no way any museum is going to be dull. Combine his flair for dramatic presentation and storytelling with a unique assembly of planes from the First World War, and it’s irresistible. The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, near Blenheim in the Marlborough region of the South Island/Te Waipounamu, comprises two hangars, one displaying Sir Peter’s private Knights of the Sky collection of early aircraft, the other, Dangerous Skies, filled with planes used in the Second World War and owned by individual aviation enthusiasts. Together they’re a fascinating demonstration of the development of the aeroplane and its use in warcraft.
Even more absorbing are the individual stories connected with each plane, and this is where Jackson’s imagination, and resources, triumph. Many are displayed, with Weta Workshop brilliance, in action scenarios – crashed into a tree one snowy night or being looted on the ground by Australian soldiers – telling gripping stories that bring the pilots’ experiences to life. Even the glass cases of memorabilia are special: a piece of tattered canvas from the Red Baron’s plane; a touching tribute to the contribution made by the carrier pigeon.
Models and reconstructions, and a helpful guide on hand to answer questions, complete the story here. In the Dangerous Skies hangar, there is also a Weta Workshop contribution to the larger-than-life displays and dioramas, where planes such as a Spitfire and Messerschmidt are the stars of gripping stories. Learn about the Night Witches, Russian female aviators who terrified German soldiers, and brave the Stalingrad Experience, a lifelike CGI replication of a Luftwaffe bombing raid on the Russian city.