There was one more exhibition to see at Te Papa Museum, after we had escaped unharmed from those terrifying tyrannosaurs. “Air New Zealand 75 Years” told the story of how our national airline has grown and developed over this time span. International flights started on 30th April 1940, when a flight from Auckland to Sydney being the first scheduled air link between New Zealand and the rest of the world.
Cabin staff uniforms were on display, starting with the latest models and working back through the years to the very first, which seemed to be styled on military lines. Sadly, being displayed in glass cases, they didn’t photograph well at all. Lots of colourful posters lined the walls. Who can remember NAC and TEAL from earlier years?
We can’t talk about early NZ aviation and not mention South Island farmer Richard Pearce. In 1902 and 1903 Pearce flew his plane made from bamboo, steel, wire and canvas in long hops across farm paddocks near Timaru. He is believed to be the first New Zealander to achieve flight, although in an uncontrolled way. The Wright brothers made their first controlled flight a few months later, in December 1903. On display were the aeroplane motor and propeller made by Richard Pearce.
We sat ourselves down in a replica Solent cabin dating back to the fifties. There was plenty of room to stretch our legs and a huge table just waiting for our afternoon tea. Where is that hostess with the coffee pot? We could see clouds were passing by as we looked though the windows beside us, and glimpses of one of the propellers through the back window.
It was sobering to see the “black boxes”, the flight recorders retrieved from the wreckage of the Air New Zealand DC10 which crashed onto of Mt Erebus, Antarctica, in 28th November 1979. At 12.49 p.m. (NZST), the aircraft crashed into the lower slopes of Mt Erebus, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board. It was the worst civil disaster in New Zealand's history. The contents of the flight recorders were analysed to seek answers to the tragedy. Although it was such a long time ago, we can certainly remember the accident and the controversial reports. Debate raged over who was at fault for the accident. The chief inspector of air accidents attributed the disaster to pilot error. Justice Peter Mahon’s Royal Commission of Inquiry disagreed, placing the blame on Air New Zealand and its systems.
We waited in line to get the boarding call for an interactive ride to the future. Once seated, we donned our special goggles, which showed us just what we might experience in airline travel in the the future. This was an interesting experience and very well done.
Like many other travellers, I would love to experience a flight in the super-duper “Dreamliner” Boeing 787-9. I tried the Sky couch for size, and yes, wouldn’t it be a marvellous way to travel on my next UK trip. No more being squashed up cattle class for me with all the others, this is the way to go, I’ve decided. In my dreams – I fear.
There was plenty to look at. including re-runs of the most popular safety in-flight videos made. Remember when the All Blacks played the starring roles? And who could forget the video showing the air crew dressed in nothing but body paint? This was a great exhibition, with things to interest all ages.