On 1 November, just short of 10 years after the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre’s WW1 Knights of the Sky exhibition was inaugurated, a newWW2 exhibition hall, Dangerous Skies, opened to the public at Omaka airfield near Blenheim, New Zealand.
Several privately owned airworthy warbirds are on show in realistic diorama settings, including the Chariots of Fire Fighter Collection Spitfire XIVe NH799/ZK-XIV, Bill Reid’s Avro Anson I MH120/ ZK-RRA (the world’s only airworthyMkI variant of the type), Yak-3M replica ZK-VVS owned and operated by the Yak-3 Fighter Syndicate, and former Royal Canadian Air Force Curtiss P-40E AK803, which is on loan to the centre for a year from the Maude family in Victoria, British Columbia (see News, Aeroplane October 2016).
The dioramas have been enhanced by the addition of realistic mannequins from New Zealand’s legendary cinematic special effects and props companyWeta Workshop. The Yak is displayed next to Lydia Litvyak, ‘the White Rose of Stalingrad’, the first female fighter ace, who scored 12 kills over a two-year period before being shot down and killed on 1 August 1943 during the Battle of Kursk. The set-piece displays have been designed to allow the airworthy aircraft to be easily removed when required for flying duties.
Following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit New Zealand’s South Island on 14 November, the centre was closed for checks by structural engineers, but damage was found to be relatively minor and the building was declared safe within 24 hours. Jane Orphan, the CEO, said: “The cost of the build and fit-out was significantly inflated due to additional earthquake-proofing requirements, and it is only at times like these that you fully appreciate these precautions.”