Kiwi Museum Beauties

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Kiwi Museum Beauties

Postby Nuuumannn » Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:00 am

Two months ago I went to Christchurch and visited the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, to use its new name, for the first time in a few years. Things had changed; in the meantime there had been devastating earthquakes in the city, which affected everyone there, but thankfully there was little sign of damage to the museum, apart from a few cracks in some out buildings, which had been fixed. Since then, however, the museum has experienced a considerable amount of expansion, including a new hall and a few new airframes, which is doing much to breathe new life into this World Class collection. At present the new hall is being used as Christchurch's conference centre, since the last was destroyed in the earthquakes and it won't be in full use by the museum for another couple of years yet, but there are a few aircraft in there to give the facility a special feel.

Also in the time since I've been back the fate of the RNZAF's fleet of A-4s and MB-339s has been decided, with the museum receiving two A-4s; a single seater and a two-seater and a Macchi (MB-339), although it has the wreckage of one that crashed whilst in RNZAF service. Other good news for the museum is that its restoration team has finished its P-40, which it has had for many years. This aircraft was originally built as a P-40F and when the museum bought it, work had already begun on restoring it, but because the RNZAF never operated the Merlin engined P-40, the rather controversial decision was made to convert the airframe to RNZAF P-40E standard. The finished result is exceptional.

Firstly, the new hall's inhabitants, two of the museum's three A-4s and a Macchi.

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This is a former US Navy A4D-2N (not a typo, it's an A-4C) that has been converted into A-4K standard to illustrate how the Skyhawks first looked in RNZAF service. The aircraft is wearing the markings of NZ6207, which was the first RNZAF A-4 to be lost in service.

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The MB-339CB, or Macchi as it was known in New Zealand, after the Australians named their MB-326s. These aircraft were retired in 1991 also, but a number were maintained in airworthy condition by the air force until their disposal.

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A-4K NZ6205, which, the last time I saw it, it was sitting forlornly at RNZAF Woodbourne covered in bird sh!t, which I and a few others had to remove, before preparing it for outside storage, where it was coated in spraylat and left to its fate.

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The glass panelling around the museum has now been covered with decals of this rather neat design, featuring A-4, Anson, Spitfire, Tiger Moth and Vampire silhouettes. This is one of the exterior walls of the new hall.

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The museum's P-40. Owing to its original identity and the fact it never saw RNZAF use, it is decorated in a typical RNZAF scheme for this type and given the generic serial NZ3000, which was not allocated to an actual RNZAF P-40. This was taken before the museum opened, which gave me the opportunit to get close to the aircraft and take a good look at it.

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The aircraft's instrument panel.

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Once the museum opens, the display hall is bathed in mood lighting that is bright enough for photography and enhances the aircraft, as can be seen here, although detailed photography without flash is difficult. Note the markings typical of an RNZAF P-40. The white empennage and striping was identification markings; note also the colour and size of the RNZAF Pacific markings.

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Hidden in complete darkness during opening hours, I took advantage of the fact that the Canberra was in (artificial) light and could be seen in its entirety. I commented to a staff member that its a big aircraft in the flesh and tends to lose a lot of its impact by being placed in a night time scene. In case you are wondering, that is an Australian flag on its nose; the aircraft is A84-240 and has actual combat service; it served with the Royal Australian Air Force in Viet Nam carrying out bombing operations and was gifted to the museum by the RAAF.

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The lighting in the display hall is designed to reflect a 24 hour period, with the Canberra doing night ops; I thought this mannequin marshalling in the Canberra with only superficial lighting looked rather life like.

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A reproduction Sopwith Pup as N6460 in the markings of New Zealand born fighter pilot Capt. Harold Francis Beamish, suspended above the display cases.

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A souvenir from RAF Tengah in Singapore, where the RNZAF had many detachments over the years.

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Spitfire LF.XVIe TE288 once was a movie star, sitting in for publicity stills for the film Reach for the Sky, starring Kenneth Moore as Douglas Bader, one shot shows Moore waving from TE288's cockpit. It subsequently ended up on a pole outside Christchurch Airport, where it was subject to 20 years of inclement Canterbury weather and was removed and a plastic reproduction was put in its place. It is decorated as 485 (NZ) Sqn example OU-V "Rongotea", but does not wear a serial number since that was not its original identity.

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Former RNZAF TBF-1C Avenger NZ2405 formerly carried out top-dressing trials post war, but has been restored to wartime configuration and depicted as NZ2521.

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The museum's third A-4; TA-4K NZ6254 is significant as it was the first Skyhawk modified under the Kahu programme, which saw modern nav attack systems and digital avionics fitted, which was entirely carried out here in New Zealand. '54 also became the first RNZAF aircraft to fire an AGM-54 Maverick guided missile in trials, so its inclusion in the museum collection is important.

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One of only a handful of Lockheed Hudsons surviving around the world, NZ2013's restoration was a mammoth task and it is entirely complete, being the only surviving Hudson fitted with an intact and complete ventral gunner's position.

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Dawn in the museum display hall is represented by this unique Avro 626; the only survivor of its type. Alongside is another museum rarity, a Hucks Starter.

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In the museum's entry hall, the Vampire has had its undercarriage retracted since I last visited; its clean lines and small front-on profile are more evident now.

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The only aircraft to suffer damage as a result of the earthquakes was the Vampire, which swung into the pillar behind it. The damage will not be repaired, as a reminder of the earthquakes that did so much to change the face of the city.

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Thanks for looking. :)
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Re: Kiwi Museum Beauties

Postby Mayfly » Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:30 am

Thanks, some lovely photos there, it's 7 years ago since I was in Christchurch. Would be good to go back again next time we visit NZ.
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Re: Kiwi Museum Beauties

Postby Aceyone » Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:15 pm

Very interesting post.thanks !
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Re: Kiwi Museum Beauties

Postby Ramshornvortex » Tue Jan 07, 2014 2:25 pm

Fantastic informative post and great photographs too.....

It's so rare these days that anyone posts anything even remotely involving aviation on Iconic "Aircraft" - well done!
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Re: Kiwi Museum Beauties

Postby Ray C » Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:22 pm

Excellent...The Kiwis do it right..... :ymapplause:
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