IWM–Duxford: American Air Museum
52° 05′ 46″ N/ 00° 08′ 08″ E
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 hangars of the NASM Udvar-Hazy or 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. There is a dedicated children’s play area which is an item overlooked in most large museums 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 is hefty until one considers:
- This is a museum complex with several museums so it is a bargain
- Upkeep of the static aircraft has a cost but consider the upkeep of the flying and restoration facilities, as well
- 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 miles that 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 climate controlled, however. Also take care for restroom locations as they are not necessarily in the next building.
IWM–Duxford is world-class and, in its way, 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 American Air Power Hangar is new and architecturally spectacular. Not a historic hangar but a purpose-built display building with graceful lines and wonderful to experience. Aircraft and exhibits dating from WW II through the Cold War to current day are on the floor or suspended from the ceiling. A partial upper floor lends space for a café (somewhat limited seating) as well as views from on-high of the aircraft exhibited on the floor. Simply fascinating is to walk about the aircraft—taking care to strike a head against a propeller or antenna—and go from the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress to the Consolidated B-24 Liberator with a mere five steps and contemplate the differences in crew duties as well as aircraft performance.