Flying visit for duke and duchess

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 07:03 04/03/2014
Jane Orphan
Emma Allen

Sprucing up: Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre's chief executive Jane Orphan dusts off one of the exhibitions which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will see next month

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
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The royal visit to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre will place the museum firmly on the international map.

Film director Sir Peter Jackson, who has a collection of planes on display at the centre, will escort the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge around the World War I planes.

Regarded as one of New Zealand's best museums, it is understood the royal couple made a personal choice to visit the museum.

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre chief executive Jane Orphan said their visit on April 10 had been in the planning stages for months.

"The Department of Internal Affairs contacted us and said they heard very good things about us and wished to visit and decide if the venue was suitable," Mrs Orphan said.

"They were very pleased with what they saw."

The department proposed the museum visit to the royal household and the centre received confirmation of the visit last week.

"It is fabulous for Marlborough and will put Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre on the international map with so much international media there," Mrs Orphan said.

"They aren't visiting many towns in New Zealand. We are very fortunate and thrilled.

"With the focus on such a high-profile couple who are so loved and widely admired it will no doubt attract visitors."

The couple will be taken on a one-hour tour and will see highlights including the Knights of the Sky exhibition, featuring Sir Peter's own collection of World War I aircraft and artefacts.

The royal couple will view rare memorabilia, including the only Caproni Ca 22 plane remaining in the world and the Curtiss MF Flying Boat.

"It will be a more relaxed part of their visit to look around the aircraft. It is not a dignitary event.

"There won't be a lot of people to shake hands with," Mrs Orphan said.

The museum would be closed to the public, but the royal visit coincided with the museum's popular flying day at its airfield.

Mrs Orphan said visitors would be able to attend that event.

It was not confirmed whether the duke and duchess would do a public meet and greet.

Logistics and security detail surrounding the visit would be discussed in the coming weeks, she said.

Mayor Alistair Sowman said the inclusion of the heritage centre on the royal itinerary would be of interest to the Duke of Cambridge who was an experienced pilot.

"Within aviation heritage and museum circles all over the world, Omaka is recognised as having a collection of First World War planes on show that is without parallel so I am sure the day will be a high point," he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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