Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Aviation Museum, Omaka, Blenheim

When my friends Jill and Ian were down from Auckland a few weeks ago, we paid a visit to the Aviation Museum, about a 5 minute drive from my place.   I was really impressed with the exhibits, well presented, fabulous very real looking wax figures, and some of the planes were actually real.  We were told that if the planes had a drip tray in front of them, then they were real planes and most of these would be flown in air shows around the country.  However, no drip trays, then they were just models built for the actual exhibit.

I'm going to put some images of the museum up that I took, but don't ask me what the planes are, as I was so busy taking photos, I forgot to look.  Besides I know nothing about planes.  As far as I know they have wings, a motor and make a sputtering/chugging noise, and they fly and get you overseas when you need to go :)  having said that, I did actually remember to take a picture of the information on this plane...

This is a Caproni CA 22 which was introduced in 1913 by an Italian Count (Count Gianni Caproni).   It 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 flew with the Italian army's No. 15 Squadron beginning in April 1915.

The example displayed here is the sole survivor, and until recently was the property of the Caproni Museum.  So a pretty rare sight and wondeful that it can be displayed at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim.

I found a website with more information so am using this from now on...

This is an 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.

I have since been told that Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame has been involved in setting up some of the displays, with his Weta Workshops, and that he owns many of them himself.  Not that we heard that from the people in the museum...

Although the museum was wonderful to see, I really wasn't impressed with the grumpy old man/men that were there for information and/security.  Shortly after I took this shot, we were meant to go through a door to continue round the display.  However, there was a number of people milling around there, so Jill, Ian and I decided to go the other way, where there were no people.  We were then all told off for going in the wrong direction.  We were spoken to like naughty children and told 'the planes were numbered!! It was quite a tirade from this old man.

Personally, when we were leaving, we decided it really would not have mattered which way we went, as most of the planes were all WW I, and with our very little knowledge it would have made no difference to us.

Then... just after this incident, I got told off AGAIN!  This time really badly..  So badly that an American tourist also there, a complete stranger to me, told the guy not to treat me like a child and to keep his hair on.  I didn't realise this at the time, but she came up to me later and told me that she thought he was my father, as only a father would speak in that way...

It happened like this....

See this one - looks cool - wax figures getting an injured man out of a plane, crashed in a field of mud...

Right next to it was an old US Army car with a nurse driving it.  Notice all that mud even on her clothes!  It looked totally real.  Which made me wonder if it was really mud or not.  So I took my forefinger, and touched the edge of it.  Lightly.  I expected my finger to sink into the mud, but no, it was all fibreglass.

You would have thought that actually got into the car to get my photo taken or something at the way this guy went off at me.

Jill came over and said 'What did you do????'

I said in a sort of loud voice.  Okay - loud voice..

"Mummy - I want to go home!!"

Jill laughed.

In actual fact, by this time I wasn't enjoying myself as the behaviour of this guy was actually rude.  I would say he needed a bit of customer service training.

I accept that I probably shouldn't have touched the exhibit, but if they are really scared that one finger will damage the fibreglass, then mayI suggest glass enclosures?   A simple, please do not touch the exhibits would have been sufficient, rather than being rude and treating me like a 5yo!

Here is the plane from the front - notice the mud!  Fascinating!  It's a Morane-Saulnier Type BB, constructed in 1915.  Small two-seater bi-plane intended for the reconnaissance role.  This one is a reproduction and is presently the world's sole intact example.  Intact but minus a few bullet holes as the aircraft features in the drama of a wounded pilot being dragged from the cockpit.

This was one of the many smaller models put together.  They weren't that big, but I was able to take the pictures as if they were flying, which I found a cool thing to do.  I have no idea what they are, but if you'd like to tell me, just leave a comment, and I'll go back and name them.

Most of the exhibits told a story - a piece of history of the plane, and wax figures depicted these. This one is the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8..

Nicknamed 'Harry Tate'’ after a popular music hall performer, the RAF R.E.8 was considered neither popular nor much of a performer. It was nevertheless 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.

There was a display of propaganda posters which I found most interesting.  Actually - it makes me wild that governments used these tactics to get people to go to war. There were many more but it was quite dark so I couldn't actually photograph them as I didn't have my tripod.  Here's another that was meant to help the war effort...

I thought silver bullets were only needed for werewolves??  Seems a waste of silver to me!

The next image is purposely 'out of focus' to give you the impression it is moving.  To get this I moved the camera sideways as I took the shot.  Worked well although I had to practice a bit before I got the desired effect....

This is a story to make all New Zealanders proud.  It's about a 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!  Pretty amazing really.

Here it is again showing by way of wax figure, how he landed the plane!

The next image is of a Fokker triplane...

These planes were made famous by the successes of 'The Red Baron' and his fellow pilots of the famous 'Flying Circus'.

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.

The Triplanes on display are wearing the specific and carefully researched colours of individual machines that were operational with Jasta 11 during March of 1918. During this period the Jasta was being led by Manfred von Richthofen flying his all red Dr.I.

The following images are of a Nieuport 27 and a Siemens Schuckert in snow.  

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. The two flyers share a cigarette as German soldiers look on, all of them standing in a think carpet of snow to produce what must be one of the most dramatic museum displays to be seen anywhere in New Zealand.

I did think the plane in the tree was very impressive.

Here is another one of the small model planes which I loved to photograph.  No information about these ones that I can find now I'm out of the museum!

The following image is of the Death of the Red Barron. It depicts the death of Manfred Von Richthofen on 21st April, 1918. The Baron had been mortally wounded by ground fire while pursuing a Sopwith Camel at low level, just as another Camel was trying to attack from behind. Barely able to hold onto consciousness, the German ace managed to crash-land the aircraft before he died. The display shows the crashed,Triplane with the late Baron lying beside it, as Australian ground troops tear the Triplane apart for souvenirs, just as it happened 89 years ago.

Finally - just one more model shot which I think is bright and colourful and very cute.  If I were to fly a plane, I'd want it to look just like this...

As we were leaving, Jill asked one of the men 'wardens' who worked there, how the displays came about as they were so fantastic, and so interesting.

His reply?

'Who cares????'

So we are still in the dark how this all came about.  A great place to go to, really interesting.  Shame about the grumpy staff, who could make such a difference to the visit.  I don't regret going, but I would definitely like to know more.



The first unidentified aircraft looks like a Sopwith Camel to me, but it would need to be compared with photos of other Camels.

The unidentified triplane looks as if it might be a Camel with an experimental tri-wing arrangement.

Great photos, great narrative, stupid bastard wardens. They must be moonlighting prison screws.

Robyn said...

You'll have to come down Henry. I'll take you to the Museum and you can sort the wardens out :)


kim said...

LOL What a funny response from the warden!

Early Light said...

Great photos, and an interesting tale of your visit there. We shouldn't complain about the customer service - they might decide to outsource it to South Asia, and then you'll need to make a phone call to speak with someone.

Robyn said...

What customer service? lol .

Shotflask said...

Visited the musrum myself last month. Really suprerb as you say.
I had no problem with the staff who were fine and friendly.
Acouple of points: The aircraft that you call an RE8,is in fact a Breguet 14 bomber/reconnassance, it's shown in US colours. These aircraft remained in service as late as 1930.
The triplane is a Sopwith Triplane.
The coloured model is a Nieuport 28 Scout in American colours of the 95th pursuit squadron.
The other model aircraft I'm not sure about, could be a Hanriot Scout (Belgian).Regards