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IWM—Duxford: AirSpace

10 April 2017

52° 05′ 46″ N/ 00° 08′ 08″ E

The AirSPace Hangar’s sentinel Spitfire Mk I (replica with a Hurricane as the IWM-Duxford’s gate guard)—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

The cockpit section of the AirSpace Hangar’s sentinel Spitfire (replica)—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

Sentinel Spitfire Mk I (replica)—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

IWM–Duxford’s map showing no less than eight buildings with each having a unique historical tone—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

The Imperial War Museums are a quintet of museums and the Imperial War Museum–Duxford, IWM–Duxford as it is better known, being a set of museums of itself (like the several merged hangar designs of the NASM Udvar-Hazy and National Museum of the U.S. Air Force):

  • The AirSpace Museum
  • Flying Aircraft
  • Air and Sea
  • Battle of Britain
  • American Air Museum
  • Land Warfare
  • Plus smaller buildings and museums within museums as well as flying in a de Havilland Dragon Rapide in a business sharing the same historic airfield as the museum.

IWM–Duxford is anything from a special treat to a wonderland—where visitors can spend  hours or days (yes, days). Family members not wishing to spend days can easily enjoy neighboring Cambridge, so not to worry.

The food available at not one but two cafés is excellent and affordable—better than usual fare and quite enjoyable. There is a dedicated children’s play area which is an item overlooked in most large museums though wise as children do not maintain control for hours at a time—the energy built up over that time must be expended before it boils over, as we know. Entry for adults is £18 (a hint: if going  to more than one IWM facility consider getting an annual pass) which may appear hefty until one considers:

  • This is a museum complex with several museums so it is a bargain at about £2 apiece
  • Upkeep of the static aircraft and other historic displays has a cost but also consider the upkeep of the flying and restoration facilities, as well, not to mention its research facility
  • This is one of the best museums in the world in terms of historical location, aircraft on exhibit and the excellent display spaces

Wear good walking shoes though transport is available as there is literally over a mile which can be involved. That being said, the cafés were wisely placed roughly at either end of the complex. One is in the open going from hangar or building to the next so dress for the weather—once inside the hangar spaces are unusually but welcomely climate controlled, however. Also take care for restroom locations as they are not necessarily in the next building.

IWM–Duxford is world-class and standard setting. Marvel at British aviation as well as the world’s aviation developments in an intimate way as, for the most part, visitors are walking among the aircraft entirely without cordons or barriers. The gift shop is  noteworthy, as well, with its vast array of aviation as well as WW II themed merchandise.

The AirSpace Hangar is the main event, the entry to the museum complex, and has the most varied content. Nearby is a café as well as the well equipped outdoor children play area with its central feature of an Avro Lancaster-esque climbing gym. First going into the hangar, in the hallway leading to the main hangar as well as the stairs to the upper floor and balcony surround, is a replica of Percy Pilcher’s Hawk glider. Easy to run by on the way to see the more advanced flying machines but do stop to take a look and appreciate how early flight was literally about strapping oneself into a something little more than a kite. Also see how the wings approximated bird wings in two dimensions as well as the maritime influenced construction methodology of the day using spars and knots. Quite the comparison to the BAC TSR.2, EE Lightning and Aérospatiale Concorde less than 100 yards away and about as many years later—nearly the entire scope of aviation heavier-than-air design history on spectacularly convenient and comfortable display. The “Airborne Assault” Museum and engine section are as spectacular if a bit smaller in footprint. The upper floor balcony (first floor if you’re UK and second floor if you’re not) which surrounds most of the hangar’s inner perimeter offers excellent viewing of the aircraft in suspension as well as the unusual viewing angle from above of the aircraft exhibited on the floor.

Perry Pilcher Hawk Glider replica (Pilcher’s work was Britain’s beginning of heavier-than-air aviation)—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Hardly half of the AirSpace’s interior with two floors and aircraft above as well as below)—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Looking beyond a Lancaster Mk X to the Lysander Mk III and the Sunderland MR.5—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Almost too many aircraft to count :)—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

De Havilland Mosquito TT.35—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

The Avro Lancaster Mk X with ground support equipment—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (not the valve cover head modification of the nose showing the Griffon engine replacing the Merlin engine)—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Airco DH.9—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

A museum within the AirSpace Hangar—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

Airborne troops use all manner of transport, on the ground or in the air, to be mobile—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

Lightweight weaponry used by airborne forces—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

“Horsa” the Handley Page Hermes 4—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

Avro York in the airline markings of Dan-Air—Catherine Dowman image and copyright

Westland Lysander Mk III (note the aft ladder for speedier access to the rear cockpit when on the ground in occupied France of WW II)—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Short Bros. Sunderland MR.5—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Short Bros. Sunderland MR.5—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Short Bros. Sunderland MR.5—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

One of the many engines displayed at IWM-Duxford—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Fairey Swordfish Mk III—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Fairey Swordfish Mk III (leave it to the Royal Navy to have a biplane fabric covered aircraft on the frontline yet successful)—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Fairey Swordfish Mk III—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

The flight testing Aérospatiale Concorde SST—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Aérospatiale Concorde SST power—Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft


5 Comments leave one →
  1. shortfinals permalink
    11 April 2017 23:49

    So glad that you and your lady could enjoy the magnificent collections at Duxford, Joe. As an aside, the Hermes IV shown is the ONLY surviving fuselage section of the type left. Amazingly, the Fairey Swordfish’s last front-line operators were not the Royal Navy, but the RAF! They were still being used in early 1945, over European coastal waters (at night – hence the black camouflage and radar) to hunt down E-boats and small U-boats.

    I am lucky we will be taking The People’s Mosquito stand to the wonderful Flying Legends show in July – and I will be there!!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      12 April 2017 07:30

      Regarding the July trip, as my Kiwi mum-in-law would say: “Good on ya!”

      Cate shot the Hermes, the three of us split up to cover the museum given our short time there. It would be cruel to have kept them there with me for hours upon hours to really see Duxford as much as I would have enjoyed that 😉

      Always learning from you–I was not aware the RAF flew Swordfish aircraft much less their role in hunting E-boats and the one man subs in the North Sea. Thanks 🙂

  2. 12 April 2017 07:09

    It is an amazing museum. My time there was marred a somewhat in 2012 by low SD card space!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      12 April 2017 07:32

      No doubt!

      SD cards. Spare batteries. A tent. A masseuse.

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