Media from around the globe had their own royal tour of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre last night, ahead of the royal couple today.
For the many seasoned royal tour journalists, photographers and television crews, the media-only tour of the heritage centre in Blenheim was unique, giving them the opportunity to take in the displays of World War I aircraft and artefacts owned by Sir Peter Jackson.
For Reuters news agency photographer Philip Noble, the collection was like "a little boy's bedroom".
"It's just mind-blowing, it's just staggering. I could spend hours, days, weeks [looking] and still not see something. You get up close to the mannequins and you expect them to move.
"I've never been in a museum that's anywhere close to this, never, it's just unbelievable . . . it's the stuff you dreamed of making in your bedroom and your mum wouldn't let you pour the baking powder on your floor."
Noble, who is based in Britain, was referring to an exhibition called The Snow Scene in which two tonnes of epsom salts had been used to make snow that surrounded a French biplane fighter aircraft.
London's Daily Telegraph chief reporter Gordon Rayner said it was a rare occasion. He had covered about 10 royal tours in his career.
Despite William and Catherine having the opportunity to get a private viewing of the displays, Rayner said he would not trade places with them, because of the limited time they would have to take them in.
"They only get to stay for like half an hour and he [William] would probably like to spend a couple of hours in here, but he won't get a chance . . . William will love it."
Centre guide Laurence "Bunty" Bunt, 93, was popular with the international media teams; he is to explain exhibit 10, Grid's Great Escape, to the royal visitors today.
He was filmed, interviewed and photographed by various media from New Zealand and overseas and said he was excited to meet the duke and duchess, but "looked forward to meeting everyone".
Grid's Great Escape was dedicated to a New Zealand pilot, Keith Logan "Grid" Caldwell, who survived a mid-air collision during World War I, when he jumped from the falling plane.
Bunt also served as a spitfire pilot in World War II, and would be flying to Italy next month for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino, where he served.
The event was organised by the centre in co-operation with Tourism New Zealand, Destination Marlborough, and Wine Marlborough.
Media were invited to the event as a way to gain further exposure for Marlborough on the back of the royal tour.
- The Marlborough Express
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