Over the ANZAC Day long weekend (23-24th April), The Australian Vintage Aviation Society (TAVAS) hosted the first “Great Vintage Fly In” at Caboolture airfield, about 40 minutes drive north of Brisbane.
Not only did TAVAS show off three of it’d flying aircraft (Fokker Dr.1, Bristol Fighter and the newly flying Fokker D.VIII) off to the public, but a whole host of vintage aircraft turned up for the crowd to enjoy.
After the excitement of The Australian International Airshow and as part of my birthday present, Rhi and I headed over the Tasman Sea to New Zealand for the Classic Fighters Airshow at Omaka.
The only problem (if you could call it that) was we had a few weeks to wait.
Fortunately Chris, the cousin who met up with us at Avalon, invited us to stay at his house in Auckland for a week or so and while there we headed off to the Museum of Transport and Technology, or MOTAT as it’s known.
MOTAT has two sites linked by an old Melbourne tram which is currently on loan.
Site One has the world’s only working steam water pumps, along with a number of vintage trains, cars, historic houses and an Antarctic display featuring Sir Edmund Hillary. Rhi enjoyed looking at all the old fire engines from around the world as well as learning where the 40 hour week came from (yes NZ!)
It would be an understatement to say I was really looking forward to Site Two.
Site Two is where you’ll find the Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection. If you don’t know who Sir Keith Park was, he commanded the RAF’s 11 Group of Fighter Command, which was responsible for the defence of London and Southeast England during the Battle of Britain.
The replica Hurricane in front of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection at MOTAT
After a quick 10 minute ride on the tram Rhi and I arrived at the site. It’s huge!A massive hangar with who knows what behind its doors.
After a quick look at the replica Hurricane fighter out front, we went in. Greeting you is a small shop, the front desk and a Tiger Moth hanging from the ceiling.
I could already tell I was going to like it here.
Going into the main aircraft hall you can’t help but see a Lancaster bomber and an A-4 Skyhawk fighter. These are just the first things you see as the cavernous hangar seems to stretch on forever. And all you can see is aircraft!
The sleeping bag Sir Keith Park’s used in WW1 when he was a Major in the RFC.
The RNZAF is well represented from World War 2 until the last of its fighters, the A-4. As well as the main hall there are a number of other areas to explore, like the Fleet Air Arm, Bomber Command and an exhibition on the de Havilland factory which was based in Wellington. Interestingly, Sir Keith’s WW1 sleeping bag is on display at the museum along with his top hat which was used for formal dinners. There’s also a great display dedicated to the first lady of the New Zealand sky, Aviatrix Jean Batten.
The Short S.45 Solent, one of the last of its breed, at MOTAT.
One aircraft I was really looking forward to seeing was the Short Sunderland. But what I wasn’t expecting, was seeing a Short Solent flying boat.
Short S.45 Solent passenger cabin.
This Solent (above) is one of only two left in the world and is currently being restored to the condition it was in when it flew in the 1950’s.
Rhi and I were lucky enough to be invited for a look inside. Rhi particularly liked the sweeping staircase as you got into the plane, the bespoke kitchen cabinets in the galley and the staircase to the upper deck.
The Solent is very complete but has suffered from its time left outside. I wish these remarkable machines were still flying. They have so much more character than modern airliners (in my opinion) and makes me think back to the days when flying was glamourous and people got dressed up to do it!
Ex-RNZAF Short Sunderland being restored outside at MOTAT
I was still a little disappointed that I had not yet seen a Sunderland, but that soon went when I mentioned I’d come to see it and was told “Oh, yeah, there’s one just out the back there”.
We went outside and there it was. Covered in scaffolding but substantially complete, the flying boat is one of only five complete Sunderland’s left. It will eventually be brought inside.
Also outside was a Dakota, Hudson and Ventura.
The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland is definitely worth the time to go and visit. It’s very easy to get to by public transport (we caught the bus and the driver let us know where to jump of) and its an easy walk once you’re on site. The tram operates every 30 minutes between both sites or you can walk if you feel up to it.
You can find more pictures of MOTAT at the CanvasWings Flickr page.
Every two years when Rhi and I come down to Victoria for the Australian International Airshow, we always say “we really should go and see the B-24M Liberator at Werribee” but we never seem to get there. But 2013 was different.
The forward fuselage of the B-24 Liberator A72-176
We ( Rhi, cousin Chris from New Zealand and myself) somehow managed to drive past the hangar on our way to the Airshow one day and noticed a sign advertising extended opening hours because the Airshow was in town.
Our first impression was how huge the hangar was. We’d seen a fully assembled bomber at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, but this area seemed somewhat more cavernous.
Although it’s too large to fit in the hanger as a whole aeroplane, it still looks very complete.
The engines still need to be fitted, there’s no tail section and only about half of the wings are done. Our guide tells us that to put the wings on would mean it won’t get out of the hangar so that part is being left until it’s ready to move.
A mostly complete forward fuselage lends a lot to this impression of it being mostly finished.
A restored oxygen cylinder the B-24 Liberator A72-176
The standard of the work on the Liberator is first class. We got to have a look inside the bomb bay, the area leading up to the cockpit and the rear fuselage leading to where the tail gunner would sit. It hardly looks like it’s being restored some 70 years after it was built and looks like it could be on an assembly line awaiting its bits.
The restoration group also has several gun turrets they’re working on including the belly turret, which is interesting as it retracts into the fuselage on takeoff and landing. These turrets are very small and it makes you wonder how men flew and fought in these cramped, uncomfortable areas.
As well as the Liberator, there are other aircraft parts including an Avro Anson.
There are a lot of opportunities to get “up close and personal” with the Liberator including inside access at various points of your tour. What we loved about the tour was that you were given a very knowledgable volunteer who was only too happy to answer any questions you might’ve had.
The restoration group has heaps of memorabilia that would take days to look at, model aeroplanes and myriad other items of interest (Rhi picked up an original spark plug still in the original packaging).
The hangar has a small shop with a dedicated group of lady volunteers who are very welcoming and helpful. They too, are happy to talk about the history of the bomber.
A huge thanks to everyone at the Werribee hangar for showing us around and being very generous with their time. It’s worth the small entry fee and great to see the passion these volunteers have for Australia’s aviation history.
Here are some more photos of this fabulous restoration: