The hardest part of any trip to MOTAT is finding somewhere to park the car, then getting to the entrance. This expectation has been resolved with the new carpark!!! Approached from Motions Road, with the Zoo pulling in huge numbers of excited families, down the long new concrete drive with shuddering judder bars in-place of the former potholes, the car park was nearly empty of cars. The generous parking spaces and clear directions with wheel stops and delineated pedestrian paths rising slowly to the east and expanding to the west across an apron of pedestrian crossing to the AH made a welcome and relieving sight. While we’re currently not having to pay for parking there will be a pay station up and working from February 2023.
Across the forecourt the entry to the Aviation Hall appeared unchanged - although tidy and crisp with new finishes and approach layout. Once inside our group reassuredly gathered on seats provided before the check-in and shop beyond. Our guide was young Andrew Fisher, keen and intent on sharing stories he will never forget. Members of our group also shared their stories as we encountered the drama and wonder of the massive and small aircraft on display.
The collection is a wonder – it feels almost a secret, the space is so internal. The air was full of planes, overlaid and positioned within millimetres of each other at dramatic angles.
The Lancaster was the significant first encounter and we moved through to the Sunderland, gun turrets restored by Ron Wilson (Lush Award recipient for 2022) with an abundance of thought and conversation - where did they keep the rowboat? How did they load bombs? How did they drop them? The romance of the moored aircraft bobbing at anchor in the lagoon overnight with the imagined noise in the tropical warm air.
That triangular shape below the underwing hatch was for popping out if an engine was required to be loaded. The wing mounted prop engines mounted out of parallel.
Then the Solent – what a gem. The personal and human scale of travel at low altitude.
Each aircraft told a story or war, of travel, of industry and farming. Sometimes both, with previously armed craft being used for topdressing after the war.
Andrew shared stories of the popularity with children and parents queuing to experience the newly acquired helicopter. Memories of childhood watching and hearing Harvards (the tips of the propellers turning faster than the speed of sound – breaking the sound barrier – bang bang bang) and Vampire jets over Wellington.
The MOTAT Society thank Andrew for his passion and informed enthusiasm. Overall a very informative and interesting tour.
Words and pictures by Bruce Wild.