We had a double dose of museums on Sunday, leaving the Otaki Museum to drive down to Paraparaumu. Our second museum visit on Sunday was to The Museum of Aviation at Paraparamu Airport, which is housed in the former Meteorological Office. Their aim is to preserve and display the local aviation history. Paraparaumu Airport was the hub of commercial aviation in New Zealand, until the construction of Wellington International Airport was completed in 1959.
We were welcomed into the museum by the President, John Kennedy who took us through the emerging history of air transport in New Zealand. The museum has a time line display of the various companies which started business in New Zealand and models of all the planes which flew in our skies over the years, with names from the past such as Union Airways, Cook Strait Airways, and SPANZ. We all remembered the early airlines Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) and National Airways Corp (NAC). Ansett has come and gone in New Zealand, and these days Air NZ rules the domestic market.
A very large wall full of gadgets and dials turned out to be a calibration flight instrument. This is used on board an aircraft to check the calibration of airport landing aids. I’m not quite sure how it all worked, but it looked very impressive to me. Men being men, the blokes in our group all seemed to understand the function of all these dials and gizmos.
On display were all sorts of memorabilia from early aircraft menus and pieces of beautifully designed crockery, and photos of Air Hostesses in extremely short skirts and hats perched nattily onto of their heads. This NAC transfer had a more personal story. John related the story of being an NAC rep based in Napier in earlier years. When he changed jobs the company cut the piece of glass holding the transfer from the glass door and presented it to him. What better place to display it than the Museum of Aviation.
There are several wooden propellers displayed on the walls of the museum. In pride of place is the propeller from the Will Scotland aircraft which flew at Otaki in 1914 and became the first aircraft to make a commercial flight in New Zealand. Aircraft enthusiasts from the deep south were delighted to find that the museum had such a treasure on display. As they were planning to build a replica of this aircraft, they came up to take photos and measurements to ensure the replica is exact.
Paraparaumu Airport home to “Air 2 There” which offers flights between Paraparaumu and Nelson and Blenheim. Air New Zealand is set to start up local commercial flights again shortly. There are plans to resurface the runway, and build a temporary terminal. 50 seater flights between Paraparaumu and Auckland will mean that local people will not have to take the long trip into Wellington Airport. The downside will be quite an increase in airport noise so that will perhaps upset some of the local population. Such is progress.