The New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum in Wanaka is about to offer a new tourist attraction, the ultimate aviation gift or day out – a ride in a world War I Kittyhawk fighter and other warbirds.
The said museum in Wanaka is about to close and hand its assets over to the Air Force Museum in Wigram in Christchurch and the Warbirds over Wanaka Community Trust.
In its place will be another venture, which organizers say will be world class, offering hands-on attractions expected to attract tourists.
Details have yet to be revealed but they could include fights in World War I or World War II aircraft, one of them possibly being the Curtis P-40 Kittyhawk.
The Kittyhawk, which flew at up to 500kmh, was one of the most successful American fighter aircraft of the war and more than 13,000 were built.
Some came to New Zealand after pleas to the British and American governments for aircraft to defend New Zealand.
Trust board chairman Murray Cleverley said the Wanaka museum would sell one of its hangars and keep one which it would develop for the new attraction at a cost of about $2 million.
He would not reveal all the details but said there would be a “whole lot of attractions” appealing to men, women, and children.
He said they were talking to several operators of a range of aircraft to offer people a hands-on experience and rides, including Kittyhawk flights. “They are quite excited about the opportunity.”
He said details had yet to be finalized on aircraft and the cost of a flight but a short joyride in a Kittyhawk could cost up to $2000. “I was in one last year and it was absolutely mind blowing.” He said he was still smiling a week after he did barrel rolls over Lake Wanaka in the Kittyhawk. “The perfect turning-50 gift from a family is to throw him in one of those babies.”
Mr Cleverley said the trust had also asked the Government for one of the air force’s 17 decommissioned Skyhawk fighter bombers which are to be scrapped, sold for spare parts or given to museums.
The New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum Trust was established in 1993 to hold a collection of artifacts, archives and other articles of historic interest and tell the story of men who served as fighter pilots.
However, Mr Cleverley said, like many museums, it was struggling and no longer viable and the decision was made to close it, hand over artifacts to the Air Force Museum and start the new venture in the hangar.