Winston Aldworth tours an exhibition at Te Papa celebrating our aviation.
A moa is walking down the aisle of the plane. And, like a doofus, I reach out to pat the thing.
Of course, the extinct bird isn't there. Nor, for that matter, am I. I'm sitting in Te Papa, using a virtual reality kit (Nerd Note: it's an Oculus Rift headset) and this part of the exhibition demonstrates how fancy technology could change the passenger experience.
The encounter is part of Te Papa's latest exhibition, Air New Zealand 75 Years, celebrating the milestone anniversary of big-time aviation in our skies.
Aside from the moa, there are tui and kereru flitting about, and the cabin scenery changes from a Pacific island beach to the Shanghai waterfront on New Year's Eve. All with a palpable - though clearly digital - sense of being there. If this is flying in the future, count me in.
It's fun stuff, but aviation lovers will find more to get stuck into elsewhere in the exhibition that runs until June 7.
There's a replica cabin from a Solent flying boat, the type that once serviced the Coral Route - running from Auckland to Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Tahiti. Boy, they really knew how to stretch out in comfort in those days. With spacious tables and loads of legroom, sitting down in this replica cabin could seriously ruin you for flying in the modern sardine-tin jet age.
Flight-data recorders from Erebus and Perpignan get a separate, respectful, area and - for the real plane geeks - there's a stripped down 737 engine.
Best of all, in a prominent position, you'll see the propeller, drive shaft and motor from Richard Pearse's original aircraft. At least they think that's what they are. There's some argument about whether these parts hail from 'Mad' Pearse's original flier, or from one of his later developments.
Regardless, they are Kiwi aviation taonga, and better on display here at Te Papa than withering in an unloved cupboard at Motat.
The moving parts are all well and good, but Air New Zealand has built much of its brand on the shopfront. As the airline's staff like to say: They fly people, not planes. Today's cabin crew are the hero figures in marketing and advertising campaigns, so it's no surprise that staff uniforms from through the ages are the centrepiece in the first display visitors encounter. And they're pretty damn cool.
I'm no expert on matters of fashion, but some of these numbers seem to do a better job of capturing the spirit of their time, while remaining timeless, than today's Trelise Cooper-designed kit. Mind you, some of the more outlandish ones wouldn't look out of place at an Austin Powers-themed party.
Air New Zealand - and before that Tasman Empire Airways Limited and the National Airways Corporation - have been front and centre in our national consciousness for almost a century. This exhibition is a brilliant reminder of how we've confronted - and, for the most part, conquered - the tyranny of distance.