Gt.North Rd, Western Springs, Auckland: There's always a museum you remember from your childhood - I visited this one when I was around ten or eleven, and the first thing I saw was the Lancaster. Today MOTAT has two sites - the original campus at Western Springs, and the Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield. Well worth a visit.
MoTaT begin in 1960 - New Zealanders seem to be very technologically minded, and a huge amount and variety of material has been amassed - much of which is awaiting preparation for display. MoTaT has taken a fair amount of criticism over the years for the state of some of its holdings. Unfortunately many folks have not realised that MoTaT is run by an incorporated society which has minimal public funding - as a young country there is little official recognition of the role of history in our culture and organisations like MoTaT do not receive the support they should. So in the 70's and 80's there were complaints about aircraft being stored in the open in the corrosive seaside environment, with little 'apparent' progress in the restoration. With the passing of time however, the huge effort (largely voluntary) is becoming more visible. I think this also reflects a growing awareness of our history. The completion of the hanger display area in the early 90's has seen restoration work move ahead in leaps and bounds - particularly noticeable on the Lancaster and Solent. Only two aircraft (out of more than two dozen) now remain in the open.
On my last visit I had the opportunity to chat with Norm McKelvey, who is the new supervisor of the aircraft restoration projects. He showed me plans for getting the remaining aircraft undercover, and to improve the display space. As these go ahead, this will become a world class facility - an important move considering the rarity of some of the aircraft. He also made it clear, given the nature of MoTaT's organisation and funding, that more assistance was required to act on those plans - so, for those of you in the Auckland area, if you want to assist in making those plans a reality (financially, or with your labour) - contact Norm McKelvey, c/o Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield, MoTaT - or (09) 445-6683. Norm tells me they're willing to provide a measure of on-going training to willing volunteers.
The images below were produced during trips to the museum five times over the past five years (most recently in December 1996). It has been interesting to see the changes in the past three years. The Lancaster now has a mid-upper turret, the P40 is a completely different aircraft (literally - having been swapped), and the interior of the Solent is easier to view. The ongoing work can be seen in the difference in the state of the Sunderland, as shown in the pictures below. I was particularly fascinated by being able to look inside the Mosquito fuselage, and to see the parts of the Lancaster which were open while it was being refurbished. The highlight however has been the special opportunity to tour the interior of the Lancaster (more details here.)
The Museum is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 5pm (last entry 4.30pm). There is an admission charge. Access to the Sir Keith Park Memorial site (Aviation section) is from Motions Rd (off Gt.North Rd).
Museum of Transport and technology,
A special feature on the interior of the Lancaster Bomber can be found here . More pictures of the other aircraft can be reached from the individual 'aircraft type' pages.
© 1996 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved