New Zealand’s greatest historic airliner artifact recovery effort will have a permanent place in Wanaka.
Paul Brennan, a classic aircraft fan and Radio NZ national broadcaster with experience in aviation film production, is leading the charge of Bring our Birds Home (BOBH); the campaign aims to bring five classic jet airliners back to NZ for preservation and display at Wanaka's National Transport & Toy (NTT) Museum.
Each aircraft has a particular importance to the country’s long aviation history and is one of the last remaining examples of the fleets originally delivered to TEAL, NAC and Air New Zealand that operated flight services between 1959 and 1998: a Lockheed Electra, Boeing 747 and 737, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Douglas DC-8.
All planes are in various parts of the world and either derelict or approaching retirement. "The two still operating are the oldest and newest out of the bunch. The oldest [Electra] still operates as a water fire bomber in Canada and the newest  operates as a charter aircraft for a Spanish airline," said Brennan. The Electra delivered the Beatles to Wellington in 1964 and the “Frodo” 747 was one of Air NZ’s fleet of four Middle-earth themed aircraft.
Brennan has struck a deal on the 737 and DC-8 and secured right of first of refusal on the Electra and 747. He has connected with Cuba’s head of Civil Aviation Authority for negotiations on the DC-10 that is currently deteriorating at Havana Airport.
Since launching the campaign more than two years ago, Brennan and the BOBR Charitable Trust have raised more than $22,400 in Givealittle donations to help save all planes. The next phase will include securing final deals of purchase and enough funding to allow the dismantling, shipping and restoring of each aircraft. The last two in operation could make their final flight to Christchurch Airport.
"Starting something from nothing was really interesting with no followers, no money, just a wacky idea to grow the whole thing. One thing I realised is that's not just important to me; these machines are important to many people as they had such an effect on our transportation system and our social history,” said Brennan. “More than eight million people have flown on those five aircraft. It's all about the people: the people who flew in them, the people who maintained them, crews on them and the stories throughout.”
Brennan said the project has garnered interest worldwide with messages and offerings of support, including from NTT museum owner and now BOBH trustee Jason Rhodes who contacted Brennan after learning about the project.
Brennan said, "We were open-minded as to where they [recovered aircraft] should go; originally it was Auckland or Invercargill, but when I saw the pictures of Wanaka and visited the place to see what they were doing, it was a no brainer. It's going to be a fantastic attraction for the area.”
A British production company is slated to produce a television series about the project's recovery efforts, including details about the museum. It is expected to air on Netflix and other global networks.