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Posted on Jul 8, 2005 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Hendon RAF Museum

Armchair General

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HENDON RAF MUSEUM

The RAF Museum in Hendon, Northwest London, is one of the largest in the world and contains many unique displays. The Hendon location contains only part of the RAF’s complete collection, a second location near Wolverhampton contains an equally large number of planes and displays. In addition to these locations, the RAF has many items on loan to museums all around the world. Finally, a third collection resides at Stafford, however this is the reserve collection and is only open by appointment.

I have long been meaning to visit the Hendon museum for one very special reason (read on for more details). What better reason than to give myself a birthday treat this year by visiting on the 27th of June (hint-hint)? So off I went…

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This report covers the following aspects of the Museum:

1) Milestones of Flight.

2) The Battle of Britain Hall.

3) Bomber Hall/Historic Hangars.

There is a fourth area to Hendon, the Grahame-White Factory that contains the oldest of all the exhibits. Unfortunately, this hangar was closed on the day of my visit. Which is good – because it means I’ll go again!

You’ll find the following link of interest:

http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/index.cfm

This article is intended to provide a brief flavour of the sights on display and cannot of course supplant an actual visit to the museum. Go there! It’s free to get in!!

Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

On a glorious day, I arrived at Hendon to be met by a rather large missile sat just by the main entrance. Although I assume it was just a display piece, it sat in the sunlight gleaming and polished as if it were brand new. This was an instant indication of the standards to expect from the RAF museum. Every exhibit within would be found in the same pristine condition. Ignoring all the voices in my head telling me to steal the missile for my own nefarious ends, I continued on and found two impressive displays in the middle of the car park – a Spitfire and a Hurricane from World War II. Although their paintwork was slightly faded by the sun, seeing these two planes there instantly reminded me how proud it feels for me to be British, for of course without the existence of these types of planes and the brave men who flew them, my country would have been consumed by Nazi Germany more than 60 years ago.

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MILESTONES OF FLIGHT

The museum covers a large site and sits on the edge of what was once Hendon Aerodrome. With one massive building and two large secondary display halls visitors are spoilt for choice as to which one to go to first. Indeed, the museum prides itself with the boast that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit (I managed it – but only just). I plumped for the Milestones of Flight hall, which has many historic exhibits all connected with the invention and development of air transport and warfare.

On entering this bright and spacious hall, one is met with the view below. Planes are not just sat on the floor. Some are suspended from the ceiling or positioned on rotating displays. And with viewing balconies to two sides, it’s possible to get up close and personal with most of the exhibits. Each plane can be viewed from nearly every angle. Touching history has never been so exciting. To add to the experience, touch-sensitive screen displays like the one shown instantly give visitors access to full schematic and historical details about each exhibit in the hall.

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In addition, boards provide additional information, and one entire wall is literally covered with a history of flight, from the first successful manned flight in 1903 to the present day. Indeed, this particular hall was opened on 17th December 2003, the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight. The yellow line you can see in the second picture below is the actual length of the Wright Brother’s first flight, 120 feet.

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Exhibits within this hall are varied, ranging from this Sikorsky Hoverfly Helicopter to the Harrier Jump Jet in the right hand picture. The Harrier is a combat-proven plane, having seen service during the Falklands conflict of 1982. During the course of the fighting, Harriers accounted for more than 20 Argentine planes without suffering a single loss – that’s an impressive tally for a subsonic plane.

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