The Omaka AHC’s story began with a resurgence of heritage aviation interest in Marlborough in the late 1990’s, when a group of enthusiasts imported two Chinese Nanchang trainers and established the Marlborough Warbirds Association. The sound of the Nanchang’s radial engines was heard over Blenheim drawing curious spectators and, increasingly, other heritage aircraft.
As word of the growing range and rarity of aircraft stored at Omaka spread, tourists also began knocking on the hangar doors. At this point, in 1997, a small group of aircraft owners and enthusiasts got together to discuss how these aircraft could be made accessible to the public on a more practical and sustainable basis, and grow the public understanding and appreciation of aviation. It culminated in the formation of the New Zealand Aviation Museum Trust.
Then followed years of planning and fundraising including Marlborough’s largest single event, the biennial Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow, currently sponsored by Peter Yealands Wines. On this journey, the original group of enthusiasts were joined by film director, Sir Peter Jackson who had been drawn to their activities and quickly became a part of the NZAMT. His genuine delight and enthusiasm for the creation of an aviation museum was infectious and added to the determination of the group to see it through to completion.
In December 2006, the opening exhibition, ‘Knights of the Sky’ was ground breaking, not just in terms of the historical importance, rarity and scale of the collection but in the innovative way it was presented. The generosity of Sir Peter Jackson, as owner of the Great War collection, was integral in bringing the exhibition to life in a series of dioramas utilising the formidable creative talents of WingNut Films and enhanced by mannequins by Weta Workshop.
On the 1st of November 2016, the highly-anticipated unveiling of Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre’s second exhibition ‘Dangerous Skies’ took place. Drawing on the talents of both homegrown and internationally based experts, the resulting displays have evolved yet again, this time featuring aviation in the Second World War.
Today the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, is a world-class destination for the appreciation of historic aircraft. Not just for enthusiasts, the centre tells the story of aviation during two World Wars, the time in which the most intense period of aviation development took place.