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Visit to MOTAT Aviation Hall

It was a good turnout when 36 members turned up to the Aviation Display Hall MOTAT in Meola Road.

Part of the main display hall, with ZK-AMO in pride of place.

After a quick introduction, our tour guides soon led us to the Solent flying boat ZK-AMO “Aranui” which is well into its restoration programme. Skills and experience learned many years ago by the team of volunteers have been put to good use in repairing and restoring the keel and superstructure of the Solent which is soon to be moved out of the main hall. This will get a new exterior paint job, and will trade places with the RNZAF Sunderland which has just been painted.

Alistair in the cockpit

Alistair McLachlan - "I reckon I could fly this!"

Although the cabins were considered luxurious in their day, and all 45 passengers had more leg-room than many modern aircraft, the crew must have been pretty agile to clamber up narrow ladders, through narrow gangways and hatches to move around their respective work areas. This was made pretty obvious when our party of retirees clambered aboard to explore.

Flight Engineer's station with hatchway through to Galley

“Aranui” was the last of the TEAL Solents, and its final flight was between Fiji and Tahiti on 14 September 1960. It was first used between Mechanics Bay Auckland, and Rose Bay Sydney, until superseded by the Douglas DC-6 aircraft in May 1954. ZK-AMO was then redeployed on the iconic Coral Route, from Auckland to Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Tahiti, and was based in Suva until its final flight in September 1960.

We then moved outside to the Short MR5 Sunderland NZ4115, which was under cover and resplendent in its new white paint scheme. We were unable to go on on board, so had a good look round while our tour guide gave a short history.

The RNZAF was the last airforce in the world to fly Sunderlands operationally and much of their flying was between NZ and Fiji. Of the 16 RNZAF Sunderland MR5s, only two remain intact - NZ4115 at MOTAT and NZ4108 (still airworthy) in the Kermit Weeks Museum at Orlando, Florida. The flight deck of NZ4112 is at Ferrymead Museum Christchurch, and parts of various other Sunderlands are in the collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Our final excursion was to one of the restoration hangars, not normally open to the public. This houses several works in progress, including the nose and front fuselage of a Handley Page Hastings C Mk3 (NZ5801) together with one of its Bristol Hercules 737 engines and undercarriage. This is the surviving remnant of four Hastings transport aircraft built for the RNZAF which remained with 40 Squadron until they were replaced by C130 Hercules in 1965.

In the Restoration Hangar around the remains of the Handley Page Hastings

We returned back through the main hall just as a large tour party of school children arrived, and being lunch time, we caught the vintage tram back to the main MOTAT site for lunch in the Tearooms. It was a very pleasant half day and the time went very quickly.


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