Duxford Imperial War Museum

This is a view from the vintage De Havilland Dragon Rapide which I was fortunate enough to enjoy a brief flight on today at the Duxford Imperial War Museum.

Aerial View

I took lots more photographs while I was there …

This is the plane I flew in:

I’d been tempted to put off my visit until the weekend when an air show (including the Red Arrows) was due to take place. I decided not to wait as I wanted to go when it wasn’t likely to be so crowded. I’d also seen on the museum website that Lotus were to going to be testing their Formula One car on the runway today. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Duxford’s airfield is fully active and that we had regular fly pasts from vintage aircraft even though it wasn’t an airshow day.

This is a Spitfire:

And as a complete contrast, this is the fastest and highest flying plane in the world. This is the actual plane that set the height record. It is a Lockheed Blackbird SR 71. It was a lot larger than I’d expected it to be.

I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to go on Concorde. I still suspect it is highly unlikely I’ll ever fly on Concorde but at least now I can say I’ve been on it.

This is one of the original test versions of the plane, so although it has some seats at the back a lot of the interior is given over to test instruments. The final passenger version of Concorde didn’t share the prototype’s crew parachute escape hatches in the floor, though.

The museum has gone to a lot of effort to present their exhibits well. I liked little details like these waxwork engineers inspecting an aircraft in the American Air Museum:

The Land Warfare gallery takes the theming to an extreme with the tanks and cars surrounded by trenches, barbed wire, rubble and bombed out buildings:

Unfortunately the tanks don’t photograph too well being in low light conditions. This one’s outside:

There are plenty of Spitfires to see, including the one photographed in flight above:

This Euro Fighter Typhoon was parked next to one of the Spitfires.:

These two planes ought to look familiar if you have read this. Nice to see them the right way up, though!

Also in the enormous AirSpace gallery was this Vulcan Bomber:

Not sure what this is but it was a decent picture so I included it here:

I love taking pictures of the more curious exhibits. There were lots of things there that got my attention. If I hadn’t seen this for real I’d have thought it was made up. It is an unpowered manned German Kite/Gyrocopter that used to fly by being towed by a submarine. It was used so that a spotter could get a better view than would be possible from the submarine periscope. The kite could be disassembled and stowed on the submarine. Apparently these machines only ever contributed to one ship being sunk that wouldn’t have otherwise been spotted on the periscope anyway.

This is the more familiar kind of gyrocopter. There’s one like it in the Science Museum in the flight gallery, although this one was easier to see being on the ground, rather than suspended from the ceiling:

There were several planes with folding wings (to make storage on aircraft carriers easier, I suppose) but this one was the only one I saw where the wings folded twice over:

I’d assumed that military flying drones were a new idea. This one is from the 1960’s:

This is Richard Branson’s record breaking Atlantic crossing hot air balloon:

This is a Polaris missile. I’m presuming the nuclear bits have been removed from the display version:

This is an American F15 fighter aircraft:

It was difficult to get close to see the Lotus Formula One testing, hence the fuzzy pictures. They kept their test driver hard at work accelerating up and down the runway all day. Not much to see, but we got the impressive F1 engine noise to listen to:

And finally … I thought this was a big gun:

Until I saw this:

This is a part of the Iraqi Supergun aka Project Babylon. I’d been convinced this outrageous sounding scheme was a fairy story but here is part of what was to be a prototype version of the larger planned gun. And if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids they might have got away with it!

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