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Biggles takes off over England ... Highs in the skies for aviation enthusiasts

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England boasts the world’s most lively and compact classic aviation scene in the world. In summer especially, there are air shows all around the country, ranging from the free spectacular in the skies over Folkestone to the epic air shows at Battle of Britain fighter bases Duxford and Biggin Hill, to the year-round displays at the Shuttleworth Collection near Biggleswade and many other museums and collections. Here is a reminder of some of the treats aviation enthusiasts are in for …

BEDFORDSHIRE

In the distance near Caddington the green hangars of Britain’s famous between-the-wars airships stand dominating the landscape. It was here the fateful R101 took off in the 1930 for India, crashing near Beauvais with a loss of 46 lives. The torn RAF ensign of the R101 is in the Church and the victims are buried in the churchyard across the road. The Bell Public House has a photographic gallery depicting the history of the Airships. Their story is told in a book by famed author Neville Shute, who worked on the airships’ design.

Big Band leader Glenn Miller had associations with Milton Ernest village where the US Army Air Force established its headquarters in the village hall. 

The Shuttleworth Collection
2m W off A1 at the Biggleswade roundabout.
Tel: 01767 627288.
Hours: Open all year, 10am-5pm (4pm November to March). Last admission 1 hr before closing. Closed Christmas Eve up to and including New Years Day.
Entry Fee: Admission charge. 
Events: Flying displays are usually held on the last Sunday in the month from April to October, weather permitting.
Established by the mother of Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth in memory of her son. Richard was a keen racing driver, pilot and collector who joined the RAF and was killed in a flying accident in 1940. The first item in the collection was a 1932 de Havilland Moth, and exhibits now include a 1942 Spitfire in flying condition, many cars, cycles and horse drawn vehicles. Flying displays are held throughout the year.


BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Wycombe Air Centre
Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, Booker.
Tel: 01494 443737
Take to the skies with one of the UK’s best known flying schools.
There are trial lessons with qualified instructors for anyone who wants to take the pilot’s seat and fly a light aircraft.
Try a family fun flight for a bird’s eye view of Buck. Includes tickets for Blue Max flying museum.

The Blue Max Collection
Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, Booker.
Tel: 01494 449810
Hours: Open all year, and in the evenings in summer with an aerial display.
Entry fee: Admission charge, children under 5 free.
A historic collection of classic flying machines that have starred in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, The Battle of Britain, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and many others.
Spitfires and WWI fighters too.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE

Fenland Aviation Museum
Bamber’s Garden Centre, Old Lynn Rd, West Walton.
Tel: 01945 585808
Hours: Open  to end September: daily 9.30am to 5pm.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Displays of aviation memorabilia, uniforms and photographs.
 
Imperial War Museum & Aircraft Museum
Next to junction 10 on the M11 at Duxford.
Tel: 01223 835000
Hours: Open all year except 24 to 26 December. Summer 10am to 6pm, and in Winter 10am to 4pm.
Access: Wheelchair access.
Six giant hangars of displays at what was once a Battle of Britain fighter station now housing a wonderful collection of displays and exhibitions from the First World War to the Gulf War.
Aces such as legless pilot Douglas ‘Tin Legs’ Bader served here.
The Showscan motion theatre is a must and where you can experience a ride through space or take part in a dog fight.
Have a look around a Concorde static display. In the Summer historic aircraft take to the skies, especially at weekends.
Unique experiences such as a ride in a two-seater Spitfire are available.
In recent years Duxford has been the scene of some warbird milestones, such as the greatest gathering of Spitfires in the air since World War II – on the day of the airshow, 27 Spitfires chased each other in procession through the skies over Duxford.

ESSEX

The Squadron
North Weald Airfield, Epping.
Hours: Open daily 10am to 5pm
1940s historic aircraft museum in commemoration of the RAF Squadrons based here 1916 to 1960.
Authentic wartime restaurant and bar. Well worth a visit.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Gloucestershire Aviation Collection
Unit 2b, Gloucester Trading Estate, Brockworth.
Hours: Open last Sunday of each month and bank Holiday Sundays and Mondays 10am-5pm. Open other times by arrangement.
 
Wellington Aviation Art
Broadway Rd, Moreton-in-Marsh.
Tel: 01608 650323
Hours: Open all year, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am-13.30pm and 2.30-5pm.
A famed Wellington bomber, designed by Barnes Wallis of Dambuster bouncing bomb fame, and other aircraft artefacts, paintings, prints, aircraft sculptures, books and videos.
Unique collection of WWII aircraft history. Paintings, models and prints for sale.

HERTFORDSHIRE
North Weald Airfield Memorial Airfield
Ad Astra House, Hurricane Way, Epping.
Tel: 01992 572705.
Hours: Open all year daily 12noon-4pm, except Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Ground floor fine old house at former main gate of North Weald Airfield. Historic record of the airfield from 1916 to 1964.
A comprehensive and accurate collection of archives, photographs, detailed records of all activities, models, uniforms and equipment relating to Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, all in immaculate condition and surroundings.
 
Salisbury Hall Mosquito Aircraft Museum
London Colney.
Tel: 01727 822 051
Hours: Open March to end of October, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 2pm to 5pm. Sunday and Bank Holidays 10.30am to 5.30pm.
Access: Wheelchairs available, and ramp access to all public buildings.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Salisbury Hall is not open to the public, but is beautiful moated manor-house, once the home of Sir Nigel Gresley, the great locomotive engineer.
This is the oldest aviation museum in Britain dedicated to the de Havilland Mosquito.
The prototype for this famous timber-built Second World War fighter-bomber was designed and built here.
Other memorabilia relating to the de Havilland aircraft company heritage is also housed here.

LEICESTERSHIRE
Aeropark and Visitor Centre
East Midlands Airport.
Tel: 01332 810621
Hours: Aeorpark open daily dawn to dusk (except Christmas Day). Visitor Centre open Easter to October, Monday to Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 11am-4pm, Sunday 11am-6pm.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Disabled facilities: majority of areas accessible, ramp into Visitor Centre, specially adapted toilets and parking areas.
See the action from this 12 acre park next to taxiway at eastern end of the airport.
Exhibits include a Lightning fighter jet, Vulcan bomber, Canberra bomber, Argosy freighter and Whirlwind helicopter.
Viewing mound, themed children’s play area and picnic area.

LINCOLNSHIRE
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
RAF Coningsby.
Tel: 01526 344041
Hours: Open Monday to Friday 10am-5pm (last tour 3.30pm). Closed Easter, Bank Holidays and for two weeks at Christmas.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: All areas accessible to guests in wheelchairs.
A fascinating guided tour around the Flight’s hangar where a Lancaster, Hurricane, Dakota and four Spitfires can be seen. Because of operational commitments a guarantee cannot be given of the availability of specific aircraft. Please phone for details.
 
Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre
Westmoor Farm, Martin Moor, Metheringham.
Tel: 01526 378270
Hours: Open weekends and Bank Holidays April to November, 10am-5pm.
Entry fee: Admission free.
Access for wheelchair users.
During the Second World War farmland near this Lincolnshire village was cleared of buildings, livestock and trees to make way for RAF Metheringham and the Lancasters, air and ground crews of 106 Squadron.
A fascinating exhibition of photographs and memorabilia can be found at Westmoor Farm, the site of the domestic quarters, which recalls life on this wartime airfield.
 
Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre
Heath Farm, North Rauceby.
Tel: 01529 488490
Hours: Open April to end-October, 10am-5pm daily. November to March, 10am-4pm daily (photographic exhibition only).
Entry fee: Admission free.
Access: All areas accessible to guests in wheelchairs.
Photographs, exhibits and archive film portray the history of the RAF College at Cranwell which is perhaps the most famous landmark in RAF history.
Follow the North Kesteven Airfield Trail to discover the other airfield sites in the area.

NORFOLK

City of Norwich Aviation Museum, Old Norwich Rd, Horsham St Faith. (Tel: 01603 861 348). Open January to end March and from end-April to end-December Sunday only 10am-4pm. May to August also open Tuesday and Thursday to dusk and Wednesday 2-5pm. Bank Holidays 10am-5pm. Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Admission charge. Suitable for wheelchair access. Exhibition building with displays of aviation memorabilia, photographs, models, maps and pictures. Of interest to Australians and Americans are the RAAF Horsham St Faith display, 8th USAAF display, 2nd Air Division display, and 458th Bomb Group display. The collection of aircraft include a Vulcan Bomber from the Falklands Task Force.

Seething Airfield Control Tower, Station 146, Seething Airfield. (Tel: 01508 494 850). Open June to October, first Sunday in every month. Suitable for wheelchair access. Seething was a B24 Liberator base during World War Two. Renovated USAAF control tower has model a/c room, diaorama of Seething base, 448th Honour roll, display of World War Two memorabilia, and an exhibition of ‘The 448th Bomb Group Collection’. This includes diaries, photographs and personal stories from Americans based here during 1943-1945.

Fenland Aviation Museum Bombers Garden, Old Lynn Rd, West Walton. (Tel: 01945 585 946). Open March to October, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 9.30am-5pm. Admission charge. Suitable for wheelchair access. The Vampire TII aircraft is one of the finest examples in the country and has undergone a complete respray and airframe check. Members of the public are welcome to sit in the cockpit and study the aircraft at close quarters.


NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Carpet Baggers Aviation Museum, Harrington. Open weekends only 10am-6pm, other times by appointment. Car parking; no smoking; all children under 154 to be accompanied by an adult; suitable for disabled and there is one wheelchair on site.

The Carpetbagger Museum is housed in the old Administration Building on the site of the USAAF Station 179 and offers a rare look at life on the base of the 801st/492nd American Army Air Force Bomb Group during World War Two. Photographs and exhibits vividly show the work carried out by the group codenamed ‘Carpetbaggers’ because of their operations in parachuting people and equipment into Occupied Europe. Next door is the Northamptonshire Aviation Museum with exhibits including the remains of recovered WWII aircraft -- parts of a Luftwaffe Junkers Bomber, a Dornier Do 217K Night Bomber and a USAAF Liberator together with instrumentation and other fascinating items of equipment. There is also a NAFFI for refreshments.

Sywell Aerodrome, Sywell. Tours start with refreshments in the Aviator Hotel Bar, followed by visits to the Northamptonshire School of Flying, the small Control Tower, Sloane Helicopters, one of the private aircraft hangars with historic aircraft and also Microlight School. Sandwiches, bar snacks and lunch available at the Hotel after the tour. Tour lasts 1¼ - 2 hours and is free. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult and kept under strict control during airside visit; sensible walking shoes recommended; wheelchair access to hotel and most areas airside.

Founded in 1928, is the UK’s premier classic general aviation airfield, popular for pilot training, vintage and classic aircraft and modern helicopter businesses. There are some 40,000 movements per year, including charter and air taxi operations to European destinations.


NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

Newark Air Museum, The Airfield, Winthorpe. (Tel: 01636 707170). Open all year. April to October, Monday to Friday 10am-5pm. Saturday & Sunday 10am-6pm. November to March, daily 10am-4pm. Closed 24-26 December. Admission charge. Car park free. Wheelchair access.

Aircraft, parts and memoribilia. Book and model shop, exhibition hall. Features aircraft types such as Anson, Prentice, Swift, Provost, Vulcan, Vampire, Meteors, Varsity, Sycamores and more..


SUFFOLK

390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum, Parham Airfield, Parham. Open March to October on Sunday 11am to 6pm. The collection reflects East Anglia’s aviation history during World War Two. Housed in a 1942 control tower of the former USAAF bomber base. Engines and artefacts from many famous aircraft, uniforms and memorabilia relating to the RAF, US 8th Air Force and German Air Force. The Library and Archives centre is located in a Nissen hut.

Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum, on the B1062 Homersfield Rd, Flixton. Open April to October on Sunday 10am to 5pm. 17 historic aircraft and other aviation material including the 446th Bomb Group Museum and Memorial and the Royal Observer Corps Museum.

Beck Row. In this churchyard lie the remains of one of Australia’s war heroes Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton.  He died at 21 when, the Short Stirling bomber he was piloting was hit during a raid on Turin in Italy in 1942. His Victoria Cross was for the bravery shown, and was regarded as one of the most awe-inspiring feats of the war by a pilot of any country. While seriously wounded himself, losing an eye and sustaining shrapnel wounds to his body as his aircraft was hit, he ignored the crew’s advice to all bail out over Europe and determined to deliver the crew to England, despite the  horrific injuries to himself. Middleton flew the bomber back over England and most of the crew parachuted to safety. It is them believe he then flew the damaged aircraft out to sea to avoid crashing into a built up area.  His body was washed ashore at Dover two months later.


SUSSEX WEST

Tangmere Airfield. Tel: 01243 775 223. Open February to November, daily. February & November 10am-4pm. March to October 10am-5.30pm. Admission charge. Access for the disabled. No dogs. Light refreshments and picnic area. Not an airfield these days, although much of the concrete runway system of the jet fighter era remain. This is the famed fighter station where Douglas ‘Tin Legs’ Bader led his Tangmere Wing into battle during the Battle of Britain. Bader himself officially dedicated the museum to the RAF and opened it in the 1970s.


WARWICKSHIRE

Midland Air Museum, Coventry Airport, Baginton. (Tel: 01203 301033). Open all year March to October 10.30am-5pm. October to February 10am-5pm. Admission charge. Access ramps and disabled toilet.

Indoor and outdoor displays of aircraft engines and related exhibits, including Meteor, Hunter, Lightning, Vulcan and Sopwith Pup replica. Upstairs gallery depicting ‘Wings over Coventry’.

Wellesbourne Aviation Group, The Airfield, Wellesbourne. Open Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am-4pm and other times by special arrangement. Underground exhibits not suitable for the aged and infirm. Above ground museum has ramp and hand rails.

Wartime underground defence headquarters, now housing a museum of relics, posters and photographs. Above ground display includes a Vampire jet, jet engine, Sea Vixen cockpit and a Piston Provost. The museum contains aero engines, a Spitfire control panel and a mock-up Blenheim turret.


YORKSHIRE

Yorkshire Air Museum, Halifax Way, Elvington. ph (01904) 608 595. Open all year in summer 10.30am to 4.30pm. Winter 11am to 3pm. Admission charge.

Once a World War Two bomber base site, the museum has aircraft, authentic control tower, Barnes Wallis Collection, Blackburn Heritage, ROC, Air Gunners and general displays. Plus unique Handley Page Halifax and a de Havilland Mosquito re-build.

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