03 April 2013


On Sunday I visited the Museum of Transport and Technology, more commonly known as MOTAT, in Auckland for the first time since I was a kid. It's an old-fashioned sort of museum, little-changed since my childhood, and I don't think that's necessarily a problem, because a large part of its focus is on preserving New Zealand's transport heritage. That's a job it does well. 

One addition to MOTAT since I last visited is the excellent new aviation hall on a satellite site known as MOTAT 2, which lies off Meola Road and is connected to the main MOTAT site and the Auckland Zoo by trundling green ex-Melbourne trams. The new MOTAT 2 hall is only a couple of years old and houses an impressive collection of vintage aircraft. 

Pride of place is given to two lovely heritage aircraft. At the front of the hall sits a well-preserved Mk VII Lancaster bomber. It was built in June 1945, stored in Britain until 1951, and served with the French Air Force until 1964, when it was finally donated to MOTAT. And at the back was the highlight for me, the extremely rare Short S45 Solent Mk IV flying-boat 'Aranui', registration ZK-AMO. The aircraft served the precursor of Air New Zealand, Tasman Empire Airlines Limited (TEAL) on routes to the east coast of Australia in the late 1940s, and then earned its fame flying the luxurious Coral Route from Auckland to Tahiti via Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tonga from 1950 until it was retired in 1960. In September of that year the Coral Route ceased and 'Aranui' was retired. For the next five years the main long-distance aircraft used by TEAL until the arrival of jet aircraft in 1965 was the land-based Lockheed L-188 Electra, a cousin of which is still seen in New Zealand skies in the form of the RNZAF's P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. 

(Click photos to enlarge)

Lancaster, Skyhawk & Sir Keith Park statue
Short Solent 'Aranui' closeup
Aermacchi jet trainer, in service for c.10 years to 2001
Curtiss P40E Kittyhawk
DeHavilland Dragon Rapide
Short Sunderland (?), Mitchell bombers & DC3

See also:
Video: Mosquito, Spitfire & Kittyhawk flypast, 18 January 2013 
Blog: RNZAF 75th anniversary airshow, 1 April 2012
Blog: Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, 29 January 2012
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