RNZAF Orion on public display for limited time

A decommissioned Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion is set to be the star of the show when the doors to the Airforce Museum of New Zealand's No 3 Hangar open for a limited time this week.

From Thursday to Sunday, the public will have their only chance to view the retired national icon up close.

Museum director Brett Marshall said the first tours will start at 10am each morning over the four days.

"After that time, what we're going to be doing is transferring a lot of the artifacts and other aircraft that are in No 2 hangar into here, and that will be surrounding the aircraft so it won't be accessible to the public after that."

The Orion's interior won't be accessible during the open days due to safety concerns around the 10m-high aircraft.

An artist's impression of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s planned exhibition space, which...
An artist's impression of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s planned exhibition space, which will house the P-3K Orion, C-130H Hercules and Douglas DC-3 currently on display in the museum's aircraft hall. Image: Supplied
NZ4203 is one of six Lockheed P-3K2 Orions retired last year by the air force. They flew more than 27,000 hours during half a century of service.

The aircraft will be displayed without its tail, as the current exhibition space is too small to fit the full 36m aircraft.

But the not-for-profit Museum Trust Board is planning to build a new exhibition hangar to solve that problem.

"It's going to be able to not only (contain) this wonderful aircraft fully assembled but also the C-130 Hercules H model that's being retired later on at the end of this year that will also be coming to the museum," Marshall said.

"So we'll have these two fantastic aircraft on display free for the public to see forever."

NZ7001 was New Zealand's first Hercules, entering service in 1965.

The new exhibition space is estimated to cost up to $20 million.

Discussions are under way on funding the project, which will play an important role in honouring and preserving these aircraft.

- By Geoff Sloan, made with the support of NZ On Air