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Visiting the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

If you’re on the lookout for interesting and educational things to do in Blenheim, be sure to put the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre at the top of your list. Located in Marlborough, just 5-minutes from the centre of Blenheim, this Aviation Museum gives a fascinating insight into the aircraft, engineers and pilots, and their contribution to the world we live in today.

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre holds nearly twenty vintage aircraft from the Knights of the Sky, Great War Exhibition. These are housed in a 3000-square metres display area built specifically to house one of the world's largest collections of World War 1 aircraft, which are owned by Sir Peter Jackson. There is also a large area dedicated to important and often very moving wartime memorabilia. No wonder the centre is one of the most visited Blenheim attractions, not only by aircraft enthusiasts of all ages from around the world but also by anyone with an interest in history.

 Royal Aircraft SE5

Keith Caldwell and his Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 (Photo credit: Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre)

One of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre’s most prized exhibits is the only surviving Caproni Ca 22 two seater monoplanes in the world. Produced from 1913 and used as an observation plane and for bombing operations along the Austrian Border, this is a marvellous opportunity to appreciate this unique specimen. The collection features meticulously restored original planes along with exactly identical reproductions and purpose built replicas like the Blue Max Pfalz built for the 1960s WWI aviation movie "The Blue Max." Each plane is displayed to perfection and many form part of a reconstructed scene in history. The Barons Last Flight exhibit recreates the scene when the Fokker Triplane of the German Ace Manfred von Richthofen crashes and he is killed, and includes original memorabilia from the Baron's own collection.

You will be transported back to another time by the cleverly constructed theatrical dioramas where life-size images of the pilots, soldiers and workers help to recreate the scenes of war and peace. One of the most educational family activities in Blenheim, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre brings history to life for the understanding and pleasure of both young and old. The special lighting effects add to this fantastic multi-sensory experience which will fascinate, inspire and educate visitors, and the centre is much more than just a military museum. It is a unique experience.

 Red Barron exhibit

Omaka Aviation Centre’s incredible Red Barron exhibit (Photo credit: Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre)

On October 1st a new exhibition called the Dangerous Skies will be opening and which will run alongside the current exhibition. This new exhibition will tell the stories of the men and women pilots of the World War II planes, taking visitors on an epic historical journey out to the Eastern Front from an English Garden Party. The only flyable Avro Anson Mark I Bomber left in the world is included in the exhibit along with a Spitfire, a Stuka and a Hurricane. With this stunning line-up, the collection is sure to become another of the area's top attractions.  

The New Zealand Aviation Museum Trust who run the centre also offer unforgettable scenic flights aboard one of their vintage aircraft. The 20-minute flight in a Boeing Stearman is operated by an experienced pilot who sits behind the passenger or passengers. The seat is only 32-inches wide but there is just enough room for two slim people to sit snugly side by side to enjoy a flight of a lifetime.

Throughout the year the centre organizes flying days and other events and the exhibitions are open daily. Take advantage of the guided tours that are available each day to better understand the contribution of these men, women, and machines to our history.

For visitors wanting to explore more of this stunning region, pick-up a rental car from Omega’s Nelson hire car depot or Blenheim Airport, and start taking in some world-renowned scenery.