Community passion fuels Tauranga aircraft museum

The main hangar at Classic Flyers NZ, focusing on the A4 Skyhawk which retired from the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the early 2000’s.

Classic Flyers NZ, the Tauranga-based Aircraft Museum, is a testament to the power of community and shared passion.

It's more than just a museum; it's a tribute to the local aviation enthusiasts who came together to preserve a large 1940s hangar at Tauranga Airfield.

This collective effort led to creating the Bay of Plenty Classic Aircraft Trust.

The BOP Classic Aircraft Trust represents passionate individuals dedicated to preserving New Zealand aviation's rich history.

Since its establishment in 2005, the Trust has collected and preserved aircraft and aviation memorabilia from bygone times.

Specifically focusing on material with a Bay of Plenty or New Zealand connection.

They have shared their passions and memorabilia with the community through the purpose-built facility known to most as Classic Flyers NZ.

Located on Jean Batten Drive, Mount Maunganui, the Trust has preserved history and expanded to offer a unique tourism experience through Classic Flyers NZ.

The Trust has grown over the last 20 years, and visitors can now explore The Bunker, a fully operational aviation museum and gift shop, or enjoy a meal at the AvGas Café.

They also offer a selection of function spaces available to hire for private or public events through Classic Flyers NZ.

The Trust also showcases its aircraft at the Tauranga City Airshow and Aero Days to bring classic aircraft and aviation closer to the community.

But if observing planes isn’t enough, visitors can also head to the skies through flight training, scenic flights, and tours all over Tauranga.

Classic Flyers' sales and marketing manager Cory Tyler says the landscape of New Zealand has made the use of aviation for travel and communications vital to our history.

“We aim to restore and preserve the story of aviation and also provide education of aircraft and the area, especially to young people,” says Cory.

“We do this through offering a variety of services to the public, and our community helps us maintain the artefacts and memorabilia stored here.”

The Trust has over 120 hands-on volunteers each week who support the Museum's operations by assisting with its daily activities.

These local community members assist with restoring aircraft and aviation artefacts, such as aircraft engines, and spend many hours bringing aircraft up to display or operational standards.

Two Grumman Avengers. One is currently being restored and the other has been completing restored by Classic Flyers volunteers.

Volunteers often lead the 300+ public visitors each week on guided tours of the hangar, adding their personal aviation experiences to provide more information about the exhibitions.

In addition to public visitors, Classic Flyers NZ welcomes up to 2500 school students each year for school-based training activities, work experience programs, and the Flight School 101, 201 and 301 programs.

The Trust strives to ensure the next generation learns about the aviation environment in an interactive and engaging way.

Cory says they do this to instil an interest in aviation in young people, which may lead them into careers in the field or to return as volunteers later in life.

The BOP Classic Aircraft Trust recently received $25,000 from local funder TECT to support its operations.

This funding goes towards running Classic Flyers NZ programmes, including the flight schools and aero days, continual upgrades of the museum exhibit displays, and support for the volunteers who are vital in bringing classic aviation history to the forefront of the community.

TECT deputy chair Mark Arundel says it is outstanding to see how the BOP Classic Aircraft Trust has grown from a group of enthusiasts to a major attraction for aviation and general tourism in the region.

“The continued growth and success of Classic Flyers is the result of a major community effort and a reflection of the evident need for such a facility to display our history of enthusiasm for aviation in New Zealand,” says Mark.

The Golden Vampire (a 1950s De Havilland Vampire) is constructed from various recovered parts by volunteer engineers and will soon be the gate guardian outside the children’s area, Torpedo Park.

BOP Classic Aircraft Trust has it all, and when visiting, you’re sure to see the hangar abuzz with excitement as visitors of all ages get a close-up view of different aircraft and equipment, a café full of happy diners and function spaces regularly booked out for private and public events.

This community-focused trust helps build skills, provides learning opportunities, and enables participation in community activities, culture, and recreation.

The museum is open from 9am to 4pm daily. Entry fees range from $7.50 for a child (under 5yrs Free) to $15.00 for an adult.


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