New Zealand Aircraft History


The NZS.nz New Zealand Aircraft History article contains a list of all of the aviation museums in New Zealand and which aircraft they have on display.

With the end of WWII, large numbers of ex-military aircraft passed into civilian hands. Attrition over the years coincided with a booming interest from enthusiasts, and by the 1970s, ‘ex-air force’ had become ‘classic’. Since then, a number of internationally recognised classic aircraft collections have been established in New Zealand.

The Beginnings

The origin of classic aircraft collections in New Zealand military history can be traced back to 1978 with the establishment of the New Zealand Warbirds Association at Ardmore airfield by a group of enthusiasts dedicated to collecting, restoring, and flying classic military aircraft. Today, New Zealand supports a number of world-renowned classic aircraft collections.

The Collections

Otago

New Zealand’s most southern collection is the Croydon Aircraft Company, located at Old Mandeville airfield north-west of Gore in Otago. Established in 1986, the collection focuses on de Havilland aircraft, and includes a number of de Havilland trainer aircraft including a Chipmunk, Puss Moth, Tiger Moth, Leopard Moth, Hornet Moth, and a Moth Minor, and a Dominie transport. The collection is available for flight training and scenic flights.

Arguably New Zealand’s most well-known aviation museum, the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum is located at Wanaka Airport in Otago. Founded by southern entrepreneur Sir Tim Wallis in 1993, it became one of the first aerospace museums to have a presence on the internet.

Now much reduced in numbers, Sir Tim’s personal, airworthy Alpine Fighter Collection within the Fighter Pilots Museum was established with the purchase of a restored P51D Mustang. The composition of the collection has since changed with purchase, restoration, and sale of a wide range of aircrafts.

The collection notably includes a Hawker Hurricane, two rare Russian Polikarpov fighters, and de Havilland Tiger Moth and Chipmunk trainers. Non-flying aircraft in the collection include a de Havilland Vampire and a WWI Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5A replica.

Canterbury

Located at Ashburton Airport in Canterbury, the Ashburton Aviation Museum was founded with the purchase of a Harvard trainer from the RNZAF by a group of enthusiasts in 1978.

The Museum’s collection includes a variety of aircraft. In addition to the Harvard, two other retired RNZAF aircraft are displayed – a de Havilland Devon light transport, and a representative of the first jet to land at Timaru Airport – a de Havilland Vampire fighter.

Civilian aircraft include two Australian agricultural aircraft – a Transavia Airtruk and a Cropmaster built as a conversion of the WWII RAAF CA6 trainer, a WWII Auster light aircraft later employed in venison recovery, and a number of classic sailplanes.

Established in 1987 to present the history of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Air Force Museum at Wigram Airfield south of Christchurch, houses a magnificent collection of almost 30 aircraft. None are in flyable condition. Others are often in the process of restoration.

Notable aircraft in the collection include a Bristol Freighter – well-known to the more mature New Zealander in both RNZAF and SAFE Air service, three de Havilland Vampires, an English Electric Canberra bomber, a Consolidated Catalina flying boat, a Douglas Skyhawk, a North American P-51, and a true New Zealand original, the CT-4B Airtrainer manufactured by Pacific Aerospace in Hamilton.

Marlborough

Further up the South Island, the Marlborough region, famous for its viticulture, is increasingly well-known for another local specialty – the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre south-west of Blenheim. Omaka is no stranger to aviation. It claims New Zealand’s first top dressing flight – by balloon in the 1890s, and the nation’s first air show in 1930.

Renowned for its exhibits and a theatrical approach to the aircraft of WWI, the Centre houses a unique collection more correctly described as vintage aircraft. Some of the aircraft are airworthy, and the collection is managed by the 14-18 Aviation Heritage Trust under the chairmanship of film director Peter Jackson.

The collection includes a number of Italian, German, French, and British WWI fighters. Some of these aircraft are originals, including the world’s last original Italian Caproni CA.22. Others, including Fokker, Morane-Saulnier, and Bristol aircraft, are replicas, some in airworthy condition.

Wairarapa

Established in 2005 as a commercial operation to host events and offer flying experiences while maintaining an airworthy collection of classic aircraft, the Old Stick and Rudder Company is located in the Wairarapa at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton.

The collection comprises a Chance Vought F4U Corsair, two de Havilland Chipmunk trainers, a Percival Provost trainer, and a Curtiss P40 Kittyhawk, all in airworthy condition.

Tauranga

The Classic Flyers Aviation Museum at Tauranga Airport near Mount Maunganui houses an eclectic collection of civil and military aircraft. In March 2008, the New Zealand Historic Aircraft Trust relocated its collection of five aircraft from Ardmore Airport to a new hanger adjacent to Classic Flyers. Many of the aircraft in the two collections are airworthy.

The Classic Flyers collection includes a Mk5 Spitfire replica, two ex-RNZAF Harvard trainers, a de Havilland Devon transport aircraft in RNZAF colours, an example of the ubiquitous Fletcher top-dressing aircraft built by Pacific Aerospace in Hamilton, a CT-4B Air Trainer, again from Pacific Aerospace, and surely one of the most graceful aircraft of all time – a Hawker Hunter trainer.

The Historic Aircraft Trust collection includes a Cessna A37 Dragonfly from the Vietnam era, a Tiger Moth trainer, a Harvard trainer, and de Havilland Dominie and Devon transport aircraft.

Auckland

The Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection, one of New Zealand’s most interesting and dynamic classic aircraft collections is housed in Auckland’s Museum Of Transport And Technology (MOTAT) in Meola Rd, Pt Chevalier.

Comprising nearly 30 aircraft, the collection includes Saunders Roe Solent and Sunderland flying boats, one of the world’s few remaining Avro Lancaster bombers, a de Havilland Vampire jet fighter, a V1 flying bomb replica, and a Douglas DC3. None of the aircraft are airworthy.

In addition to the Aviation Collection, MOTAT’s other site in Great North Rd houses the Pioneers of Aviation display. The display includes a replica of Richard Pearse’s aircraft of 1903.