THE FLIGHT DECK • November 2023
Know your ailerons from your elevators? Keen to hop aboard some of the most iconic aircraft of the last century without having to find your passport? Then read on for our list of top aviation days out…
Must see: Concorde experience
Date for the diary: Concorde Technical Tour, 14 December 2023 (£60pp)
Steeped in aviation and motoring history, Brooklands is home to the world’s first race track, built in 1907. From its early days, Brooklands was a hub of British flight, with thousands of aircraft designed, built and tested at the site. Today you can tour some of the most famous examples, from the first turboprop airliner, the Vickers Viscount, to the iconic Vickers VC10, one-time holder of the transatlantic speed record. Perhaps most eye-catching, though, is the VC10’s heir to the coveted blue ribband, the Concorde. Brooklands offers a Concorde experience where you are issued with your own boarding pass for a tour around the aircraft, including an invitation to take your seat on board an aviation icon.
Must see: SR71 Blackbird – the fastest aircraft in the world and the only one outside the USA
Date for the diary: Battle of Britain Air Show, 14-15 September 2024 (from £49.50pp)
Unrivalled in scale, Duxford has a breathtaking array of aircraft both civil and military. The aerodrome is still very much active, with private traffic, historic charters, air shows and flying days throughout the year. The Battle of Britain hangar charts Duxford’s own history as a vital RAF station during World War II, with icons of the time such as the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane in pride of place. Hop on over to the American Air Museum in the next hangar and bear witness to the fastest aircraft ever built, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which reached speeds of Mach 3 cruising at over 80,000 feet. Other highlights across the vast site include the world’s largest bomber, the Boeing B-52, and the legendary Avro Lancaster of the famous Dambusters raid. If you’re looking for something that isn’t attached to a wing, there’s a land warfare museum, too, where you can see tanks.
Where: Cosford, Shropshire
Must see: The Eurofighter flight simulator
Date for the diary: Elf Cadet Training, 2-3 December 2023 (£5 per child)
Located on an active RAF base, the RAF Museum in Cosford boasts some of the greatest aircraft flown over the last century, from the record-setting English Electric Lightning, Britain’s first line of defence during the Cold War, to the experimental supersonic BAC TSR-2. Veterans of a more recent RAF vintage include the SEPECAT Jaguar and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. As an added temptation, there is an entire area dedicated to experiencing the thrill of these legends, including a Eurofighter flight simulator, a virtual reality parachute drop experience and a 4D cinema.
Where: Elvington, Yorkshire
Must see: Halifax bomber, one of three surviving models
Date for the diary: Christmas events to be announced soon
The Yorkshire Air Museum brings together some legendary British aircraft as well as others from across the world. Open cockpit days and treasure hunts, woodland walks and other kid-friendly programmes keep everyone happy. Aeronautical highlights include World War II icons such as the Supermarine Spitfire and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. And there’s the Handley Page Victor, part of the RAF’s V-Force programme during the Cold War. Also from the post-World War II era are the Blackburn Buccaneer, which once flew from Royal Navy decks, as well the early generation English Electric Canberra reconnaissance aircraft that served with the RAF for a colossal 55 years. More recent fast jets, such as the Tornado, Harrier and French Mirage, complete the line-up.
Where: Yeovil, Somerset
Must see: Aircraft carrier simulator
Date for the diary: Active Aviators, aviation fun for under 5s (free for children; £3 per accompanying adult)
Britain’s maritime aviation is on full display here, with an array of pioneering sea planes, helicopters and some of the mechanical heroes of the Falklands War – the British-designed Harrier jet and locally built Westland Sea King, Lynx and Wessex helicopters. Other attractions include the avant-garde de Havilland Sea Vixen and, to get a full picture of what it’s like to navigate and launch the 22,000kg aircraft from the top of a moving ship, there’s a full aircraft carrier experience, too. Oh, and a prototype Concorde is thrown into the bargain for good measure.
Where: Patchway, Bristol
Must see: Alpha Foxtrot, the last Concorde
Date for the diary: A Christmas programme, including Santa’s workshop and a simulated flight to the North Pole
Bristol has a long and proud aviation history, with the city’s very name being lent to the pioneering Bristol Aeroplane Company. It’s fitting, therefore, that it has its own museum of flight. Exhibits from the Bristol Boxkite, one of the earliest (and most precarious) aircraft to go into production, through to Britannia, a titan of the propeller age. The museum charts the age of aviation in an interactive and exciting way that’s ideal for children and avid aviators alike. Its centrepiece is, without doubt, the last Concorde to roll off the production line and the last in service with British Airways, Alpha Foxtrot. And if you want to feel the speed for yourself, there’s a Red Arrow simulator to satisfy all adrenaline requirements.
Where: East Fortune, East Lothian
Must see: de Havilland Comet – the first jet airliner
Date for the diary: Behind the scenes Conservation Hangar Tours until 31 March 2024 (free with admission)
Scotland’s national aviation museum sprawls across a uniquely preserved World War II aerodrome with exhibits both outside and within the historic hangars. The collection’s big hitters include some important examples from British Airways’ own history including the de Havilland Comet, the British-made airliner that heralded the passenger jet age, and its rival the Boeing 707. There’s also a regional BAC 1-11 in our Landor livery, which you are able to walk through. Additionally, there’s Cold War stalwart the Avro Vulcan and the only Concorde north of the border.
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