musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Aircraft

The London Bus Museum

The London Bus Museum is housed at Cobham Hall in the Brooklands Museum, and I paid it a flying visit during my trip to Brooklands. As a child I was slightly infatuated with buses, or rather with toy buses, but I shall deny everything. My own experience with buses in Johannesburg I posted about in October 2012, and I expect it is rather different from the experience that people in the UK had. Still, old buses are great to see because they do not have that sleek self important look of todays eco-friendly wi-fi enabled people carriers.

The first buses I saw (apart from one which I messed the pic of) was this pair, and the blue BOAC liveried one was really quite odd, I would have liked to have had a better look at her, after all, when last did you see something with BOAC on it?. 

The museum is next to the field where the aircraft are housed, and a line up of three generations was waiting for passengers (or munchkins?). 


The museum itself is in a very good condition (and free), and you just follow the arrows to discover the history behind the ubiquitous red London bus, or rather, the London bus, because not all of the London buses are red.

And some were not powered by diesel either. This one was marked Camberwell, and I lived very close to Camberwell when I was living in London in 2013, and the bus service there was excellent.
Fortunately the horse driven bus was replaced by the motor bus and things have never been the same since, although the pollution is very different between a horse and an engine. 
I suspect this one started its career as a single decker, and was modified into a double sometime in its life.  
I really liked the 1968 Bedford Ambulance they had on display, it carries a London Transport logo and was used as a staff ambulance at the Aldenham Bus Works. 
and of course this 1959 mushy pea green Ford 300E general purpose van
Although this interesting minimalist bus below does seem to take cost-cutting a bit too far. I expect it is some sort of driver training vehicle, or maybe some sort of big boys toy? 
And yes, if you are not careful they will gang up on you.
It is not my intention to show every bus in the museum, that is what the museum is for, but my one gripe was that very few of the buses was open so that you could have a look at their interiors, although most buses probably look very similar on the inside. 
And those that I did get on board were very similar to what we had back in South Africa when I was a child. The modern London bus is a different beastie altogether, with a lot of the lower deck taken up by areas for prams and wheelchairs and lots of scowling women or people talking loudly on their cellphones.  
In fact I was looking through my pics and could find very few images of new buses that I took in London, although I do recall doing walking speed one rush hour on board one, and there were more buses in that street than I had ever seen at any one point in my life.
What of the future? the “Borisbus” seems to be the new face of buses in London, although it does lack a certain charm and businesslike appearance. If anything it looks politically correct.
I was only able to get up close to one in Salisbury and I asked at the museum whether there were any plans for acquiring one, but the reply was in the negative. It takes many years for an object to become a classic, and the red Routemaster buses in London have been classics for many years. In fact, when you think of London you think of red Routemasters rounding Trafalgar Square.  Its not a bad museum, but not the sort of place to spend a lot of time in. Kinda like a bus, in peak hour traffic.
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:45

Visiting Brooklands Museum in Weybridge – Everything else

Carrying on from the first part….

I was now ready to “see everything else”, because Brooklands was not only a hub for aviation, but also a hub for motor racing. It is also home to the London Bus Museum. When the track opened in 1907 it was the world’s second purpose-built motorsport track, it was also the first purpose-built banked motor race circuit in the world. 
There are a number of features of the old race track on the site, and it must have really been something to experience in its heyday. Unfortunately I am not a car buff, so I really did not appreciate it as much as  dedicated motorsport enthusiast would. 
The old club house building is spectacular, although for some reason I thought it was part of the airfield. Right next to the clubhouse is the building with the Stratosphere Chamber, and this was yet another Barnes Wallis project.  It is a mammoth machine, and it must have sounded even better.

There were also a number of interesting aircraft engines there, including the iconic Merlin.

 Now if only somebody had put one of those in a racing car!
The Munchkins were still following me around so I headed off to take a look at some of the classic cars on display in the Malcolm Campbell Shed. Now I must admit my dream car is probably one of those great big green open top Bentleys with large headlights. But I did see a few oldies here that I liked, that three wheeled  Morgan was especially nice.
There is also a display of vintage motorbikes and an interesting Raleigh cycle display. To my amusement one of the cycles on display was a Raleigh Chopper! These come from my childhood and these were THE bike to ride (and fall off from), but alas I ended up with a sensible Raleigh Rapier and was not not the doyen of the playground after all. This particular example is dated 1979 (and is probably worth a lot of money).

I was curious to see what some of the items on the map were so headed to the area where parts of the old racing circuit were, the hill was horribly steep too, and I was bushed by the time I got to the top. But what a surprise it was to see this remnant of an era gone by… 

The next time I am here this is one area I do want to investigate. The one thing about this museum is that there is a lot to see, and I had really only breezed through a lot of it. I really needed to revisit the Concorde, and investigate some of the other exhibits in the Wellington Hanger, I also missed the museum shop, and of course I wanted to take a better look at those olde racing cars and vehicles. There are also a number of period buildings on the site that are interesting in their own right, and they are worth investigating too. 



There were also a few olde vehicles that amused me parked outside, and if anything you could have probably have found similar ones like this in South Africa way back when.
My time was almost up and I started to head towards the station, a quick pass by the Hawker Hunter to photograph the Supermarine Swift Fuselage, 

And then I was on my way, leaving this really nice museum behind. It had been a very enjoyable trip, and one which I would make again if I get the chance. The London Bus Museum pics I will paste under a separate post.  
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:44

Visiting Brooklands Museum in Weybridge – Aviation

On my way home from West Norwood on Tuesday I was staring out of the train window, minding my own business, when I spotted aircraft! and one of them was a Concorde! Stop the train!! The worst part was the train was an express and I could not read the name of the platform where the aircraft were. I had to grab my handy computer to do a quick lookup and found that my next day trip destination was Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey.
The weather was lousy on the Wednesday, but on the Thursday I was on my way. Heading out on the stopping service, disembarking at Weybridge and then taking a swift walk to the museum. There is a lot to see there, but my chief goal was that needle nosed beauty. She would be the 3rd Concorde that I have seen, although my first was in 1973 and I have no pics of that. My second was in Manchester (G-BOAC)  and here was number 3.
The first aircraft I saw was a Hawker Hunter (My 2nd Hunter BTW). And my heart fell because there was a group of munchkins (young school children) clustered around the aircraft. I would definitely have to get back to the Hunter. I headed towards a handy sort of building that had an aircrafty look about it, and it was called “The Wellington Hanger”. I had read that there was a Vickers Wellington here, and I was hoping she was inside.  Unfortunately, aircraft hangers are like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and the item you are after is always in a space where you cannot get to photograph it easily. Why don’t they supply ladders? 
The first aircraft to catch my eye though was the venerable Hawker Hurricane IIA (ZS389), currently undergoing restoration and sans engine.
Of course my roving eye kept on going towards the back of the hanger where the Wimpy was standing. Everything else really seemed insignificant next to that bomber, while the Hurricane is rare, the Wellington is even rarer. There are realistically only 2 of them in the world, and this particular example (1A N2980) actually saw service during WW2.
It still amazes me how men climbed into these aircraft and flew them and carried out a mission to carry the war to the enemy. They were brave, you can never take that away from them, and those who built these aircraft did a fine job. The Wimpy was designed by the legendary Barnes Wallis, and its strength came from its geodesic design. The aircraft has no skin (which was fabric btw) so you can see a lot of the internals, although getting close enough to see them was difficult. 
I was really impressed by this aircraft, but just wished there was a way to get a better look at her from the inside. No wait, there is a way….
It’s not the real thing, but at least they tried. I have to admit that the guide I spoke to knew his onions, and was passionate about his subject too. In fact that was really true of all the guides that I met at the museum. And these people are volunteers, they do not get paid to do this.
The other aircraft in the hanger of interest was the Vickers Vimy which was built as a replica and which flew to Australia many years ago. I recall watching the documentary on TV about this aircraft and thinking that at some points she was probably going as fast as I could walk. Unfortunately she is very difficult to photograph and to get any real sense of. 
And, hiding in the one corner of the hanger was the remnant of another of my favourite aircraft, the Vickers Valiant. 
It was now time to go outside and find the needle nosed beastie, but first, a VC10 fuselage. I remember the VC10 from when I was young, it was always being used for glamorous cigarette adverts, or travelogues. It was that kind of aircraft; sleek, good looking and a gas guzzler. That distinctive tailplane, 4 engines aft and wings set far back just made it look good. The old maxim of “if it looks good it should fly good” was definitely true. 

In the distance I could see the sleek figure of Concorde, as well as a horde of munchkins clustered around the landing gear, so I decided to head across to the other VC10 which was parked on the other side. This particular one operated in the Sultan of Oman’s Royal Flight, based at Muscat. It was built at Brooklands and initially delivered to British United Airways in 1964. It is fitted out as a private jet, and is very nice inside.


I even got to sit at the controls! Seriously though, British passenger jet aviation is really about three aircraft: The Comet, The VC10 and the Concorde. All three of these aircraft were all aesthetically pleasing in their looks and they were record breakers in their own way. Seeing something like a VC10 is a thrill because you have read about them, and as a youngster saw them flying overhead (they were regulars at Jan Smuts Airport), never realising that one day they will no longer be there. Museum pieces are all that is left.

In the meantime, the munchkins were coming my way and I encountered them in the narrowest part of the fuselage of the VC10. There were heaps of them, a squirming mass of youngsters who may or may not remember their day at the museum. They have never seen these aircraft in flight, and hopefully the seed will be planted in their minds to one day become an engineer, or a pilot, or a volunteer at a museum such as this.

Next on my list was an aircraft that I was not familiar with, the Vickers Vanguard, of which this is the only surviving example.
And next to it, the famous Vickers Viccount. I have never seen one of these up close and personal, and only while I was speaking to the guide did it strike me that these were the aircraft that were shot down over Rhodesia in 1978 and 1979. (A memorial to that dastardly act was recently unveiled in South Africa.)  The Viscount was a very successful aircraft, and 444 were built, and they had an excellent safety record.

Oddly enough, seeing as there was a pre-dominance of Vickers aircraft here, I was not surprised to see a Vickers Viking. The Viking rang a bell because many years ago there was a garage in Johannesburg that had a Viking on its roof. It was called “Vics Viking Garage”, and the aircraft was eventually removed and swapped with a Shackleton. The intention being to restore the Viking. That never happened.

The museum also has a Vickers Varsity  on display,

and a BAC 1-11

In all there is a really nice selection of aircraft from the glory days of British Aviation. And, the best was still to come (checks to see if munchkins are anywhere in sight)

What can I say about the Concorde? This particular aircraft was one of three Concordes built for evaluation testing and final design. It made its first flight in 1974, wearing BA’s colours and it last flew in December 1981 and was bought by BA in 1984 for spares. It moved to Brooklands in 2003. There were tours available to go on board but I did not get around to it because it would have taken too long. Time was not on my side.




She is still beautiful, she still draws crowds, and she is still one of the most iconic aircraft ever built. I am happy to report I have seen 3 of them now and still not got on board! Much has been written about the Concorde and its history, and I do recommend Heritage Concorde as a source for all things Concorde.

It was time to go look around the rest of the museum now, and there was that Hawker Hunter that I wanted to look at too. You have to admit they were beautifully graceful looking aircraft. almost too good looking for an aircraft built to kill.

And, there was a Hawker Harrier too (my 3rd).

In fact there are a lot of other aircraft that I have not mentioned, and that is probably because they are overshadowed by those that are famous. The Wellington Hanger is wonderful, and they have a really nice Barnes Wallis collection on display. His influence was huge in British Aviation, and thanks to my maths teacher in tech I have a great respect for him and his achievements. One of his more destructive weapons is also at Brooklands, and I am glad that I was not on the receiving end of it.

And having not gone out with a bang I shall pause for breath and continue my exploration over the page.

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016  
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:46

Imperial War Museum at last

One of the places I wanted to see from my bucket list is the Imperial War Museum. The irony is that when I lived in Kennington the IWM was just up the street but it was closed. All I could do was stand outside that magnificent building and grumble and mutter and take pics of those magnificent guns that stand outside it.

The building itself is an interesting one too as it was the site of the former Bethlehem Royal Hospital known as Bedlam. It is a magnificent building too, but there is very little visible that could connect it to it’s former role. 
The crowds heading in the direction of the museum was not a good sign, and the 6 coaches parked outside did not auger well either. Once past the doors my biggest fears were justified when I realised the place was packed. I had been given a 2.30 slot of the World War 1 galleries, but seeing as it was already just after 12.00 I did not think I would be able to find enough to keep me amused for 2,5 hours. The crowds made it very difficult to get anywhere close to anything.
As you enter you are confronted with the central courtyard as above, my eye was drawn to the Spitfire MK1 almost immediately. She just looked amazing, and I was determined to get as many other shots of her as I could. The World War 1 Galleries were housed on the ground floor but I was not scheduled to visit those till 2.30 so headed up the stairs. It was even more crowded here and extremely difficult to look at anything. 
I was very curious about the the blue nosed object sticking out over the landing and it turned out to be an Italian Human Torpedo, and it was fantastic. Having an open cockpit you could see the complicated controls used to operate the vehicle, and again I was left thinking about how difficult it must have been to operate one of these under wartime conditions. 
Next to the chariot was a pile of wreckage, and I was puzzled because I could not find a information card that said what it was. I eventually found out that this is part of the wreckage of the midget submarine X7 that was lost on the mission to sink the Tirpitz. I had seen the intact X24 during my visit last month to the Submarine Museum at Gosport, and this was an interesting link between the two vessels. 
One of the more endearing images I have of the IWM is the piece of  a Lancaster that the museum had. I recall watching the TV series The World At Warand one of the interviews was held with that Lanc fuselage behind the interviewee. That Lanc relic rested very close to this spot. Unfortunately, getting a semi-decent image of it was impossible. 
That aircraft was the one thing that I had on my list for the museum, everything else was really just a bonus. It is however one of those items where the interesting bits is out of reach, a platform level with the cockpit would have made this so much nicer to view, but in itself it is an awesome relic. There were other items here that were interesting, but the crowds made it very difficult to actually see anything, naturally the selfie brigade was out, as were the seemingly stalled people who stood and never moved. This museum is one to savour, not one that you need to struggle with. 
I headed upwards, to another level, and then another, slowly being defeated by hordes of people and vaguely hoping that I would find a toilet and quickly. The really quiet areas were the portrait galleries, and they had some magnificent works in them, but photography wasn’t allowed so I cannot boast about what I saw. At each landing I stopped and looked at that Spitfire and Harrier, looking for an all encompassing shot.
I went into the Holocaust exhibition, and it was really excellent, telling the a comprehensive story as opposed to a hodge podge of bits and pieces, there were a lot of personal items on display, and a lot of video displays expanded on the overall story within. The audience was very muted in here, and it was a very effective display. 
On the whole though a lot of what I saw was not really in my field of interest, as it dealt with the Korean conflict and the Gulf conflict, there was also emphasis placed on Britain and how it came through the war and the period afterwards.  It is a lot of information that has to be moved through, and I do wonder whether they are trying to cover too many bases in too small a space. 
I had covered the museum in an hour, and to be honest was not going to hang around for another 90 minutes for the WW1 galleries, although they are pretty much the most important part of the museum at this point in time. I had a train to catch and headed out the door.
I will be brutally honest and say that it did not meet my expectations. There were a lot fewer tangible items on display, and some items were really minor things that did not have much of a focal point. The crowds were terrible and I expect that was because it was school holidays and a Saturday, and of course the museum had been closed for so long. I do admit that there were a lot of research stations and stuff that I probably did not even get close to; I prefer seeing items as opposed to images, and there was really a shortage of those. I probably need to go back one day when it is quieter and take my time over the museum, but that won’t happen for awhile. The bookshop had some interesting titles, but quite a lot were not price marked and the shop itself was laid out badly. I expected to walk out there with heaps of books, I came out with a museum guide and that’s all.

The most popular parts of the museum are really the areas devoted to the two World Wars, and that’s where the huge crowds were. The other areas did not attract as much attention, the portrait galleries were really very quiet, although the Holocaust display was packed.  Maybe one day when it is quieter? I don’t know but I really felt let down by the whole experience. I really felt that the expectation exceeded the the reality. Maybe it is because I have been to other museums that just seemed so much better. Highlights were definitely that Lancaster and the Spitfire, the rest were just so-so. The War Museum in Johannesburg was infinitely better from the perspective of exhibits. 

*Update June 2016.*

I revisited the Museum in early June 2016 and my impressions as before still stand. I did get to see the Jack Cornwell gun which is what I was after, as well as the Ashcroft and WW1 galleries, and they did add a lot to the experience. But, I still came away unimpressed. I cannot put a finger on why though, but I suspect it has to do with the lack of tangible exhibits. 

Random images.


© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 19/04/2016. 9 more images added from 2016 trip 26/06/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:32

Look up, it’s a classic

This fine morning, while waffling away, I heard a sound that triggered my memory. The sound of prop driven engines, not quite at Dakota level, but different enough to make me grab my camera and run outside. I do this on a regular basis, and some of my other pics are to be found at a blog post I made last year. In fact, looking at the date of that blog post (18 May 2013), this happened just over a year later. 
There she was, a 4 engine relic from the past, and from what I could see she was sporting SAA colours too. 


The aircraft is a DC4 Skymaster, ZS-AUB “Outeniqua”, and she is one of the few airworthy Skymasters in the world. It is amazing to see and hear oldies like this, they are becoming increasingly more rare as time passes, and this beaut graced my camera by making two circuits around the West Rand. She was delivered to SAA on 10 May 1946.

I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence, but for me it is definitely a rare bird. The last time I saw a Skymaster in flight was in 1981 while I was in the border.

  And then she was gone, an aircraft from the days when airlines still cared for their passengers.

Wow! what a score, so very different from the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 I will fly on when I leave South Africa on Thursday.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 17/04/2016

Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:47

Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.

The real reason for my walkies yesterday was to visit the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection which is at Old Sarum Airfield. It isn’t a very long walk to get there, and to be honest I was very disappointed by the collection.
My first oooh moment was when I saw my first Hawker Hunter. It is a real beaut of an aircraft, with that strange otherness that many British aircraft had in the days when the UK aviation industry was still producing aircraft.
The aircraft behind it is a Jet Provost, and she isn’t looking as immaculate as the Hunter is. The problem with aircraft is that realistically they should be kept under cover, but that’s assuming you have cover to keep them under.
Of course the saddest find was the cockpit of a Comet MK2 that now stands forlornly on a corner. It is as close to a Comet that I would ever get, but this poor remnant is very sad. At one point in history these aircraft were the ground-breakers of long haul jet flight, but now it is relegated to a mere shade of its former self. 
Once inside the museum I was surrounded by cockpits and very few intact aircraft. I think that was one of the reasons I felt so disappointed; there are very few intact aircraft here. 
I do understand though the limitations of a collection like this, these museums are really operated by volunteers and people who have a love for these machines. Money is tight, space is tighter and exhibits are not always easy to acquire. If anything a cockpit is better than nothing. Boscombe Down was originally an aircraft testing site at Amesbury. The collection is probably part of the equipment that was at that original airfield.
The other intact aircraft are: 
Hawker Sea Harrier

Hawker Sea Harrier

Gloster Meteor

Gloster Meteor



Chipmunk WD321

 There is also a Jaguar under preservation, although it may be be a long time before  she is any sort of state to be displayed properly.
I did look around the cockpits, and the pair of Canberra remnants were very interesting, considering that the SAAF flew Canberras during the Bush War.

I have no idea how they managed to squeeze into those small spaces though, access to that transparent nose was almost impossible, never mind how they did it with their flying gear on and while in flight. That is the one thing that did strike me, all of these cockpits were really small and cramped and it does give a better appreciation for the men who flew them.

Not all aircraft here are fighters, there are two larger cockpits which are more my size. This particular aircraft is a Hawker Siddeley Andover and it was used for early trials of low light and infra red night flying.

The “front office” of a modern fighter is a mix of analogue and digital, although I cannot recall which aircraft this is. The museum was reasonably busy too, and trying to get a coherent set of images was difficult as people kept on drifting in and out of view, or popping up where you don’t want them to be.

Unfortunately the Lightning was blocked off so I could not get a look into her cockpit, but I was really amazed at how big this part of the aircraft was. It is just a pity that there was no complete Lightning to see.

That was about it, all that remained was photographing the two helicopters through the fence. One being a Wasp and the other a mystery.

For some reason I thought this yellow machine was Russian. But it turns out that is is a Sycamore XJ380. The Sycamore has the distinction of being the first British designed helicopters to fly.

Then I was ready to head off home, I did not include all my images here, there are too many. But like so many of these places you tend to realise that you missed seeing everything, or taking notice of some of the smaller exhibits. I do however feel a twinge of nostalgia for that Comet outside, and they do have a wonderful model of one of these aircraft

As well as a lot of seats from the Comet standing outside.

From the days when passengers were treated as travellers and not as cattle.

There is also a memorial to the Air Observation Post Squadrons that were based at Old Sarum Airfield during World War 2.

That concluded my photography, and I hung around at the airfield for awhile but there was nothing really exciting going on there so I headed off back to Salisbury.

Unsorted random photographs.
BAC1-11 Cockpit

BAC1-11 Cockpit

Lloyd Loom chair as used by Battle of Britain Pilots waiting to scarmble

Lloyd Loom chair as used by Battle of Britain Pilots waiting to scramble

GAF Jindivik target drone

GAF Jindivik target drone

Hawker Harrier vectored thrust nozzles

Hawker Harrier vectored thrust nozzles

Rolls Royce Avon engine

Rolls Royce Avon engine

Back seat driver (Navigator?) of a Canberra

Back seat driver (Navigator?) of a Canberra

BDAC is a nice museum, but the lack of complete aircraft does let it down,but it is worth the trip anyway just to get a feel for those heady days of British aviation.  More images are available on my external gallery
© DRW 2014-2018. Images replaced 17/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:16

My Buddy Conk.

Tonight I was reading about the Concorde, and it took me back many many years ago (January 1973) when the Concorde prototype 002 (G-BSST) came to South Africa to do hot and high test. I was very young then and under the influence of aircraft fans, but I was absolutely enthralled when she flew over Johannesburg, banking so that we could all see her. She was beautiful. One of those truly spectacular aircraft that you never tire of seeing, and which can still draw oohs and aahs from even the most hardened piston jock. I nicknamed the aircraft (as you tend to do when young) “my buddy conk”. No, I do not understand the logic behind it, although conk = Concorde?
Anyway, I never saw her again, although she was on my bucket list, her and QE2, although I never did manage either of them. 
In 2008, I was in the UK for a course, and as we landed at Manchester airport we spotted a Concorde parked at a display area, and when the driver arrived we begged him to please make a detour, which he very kindly did. 

The aircraft in question is G-BOAC, and is the oldest in the Concorde fleet, at the time when we saw her she was parked in the open, but has since been placed under cover.

Unfortunately she was not open to the public as she was hosting a banquet or conference or something like that (much to our disgust).

I took many pics that day, and I hope that I will be able to see at least one more of them before I shuffle off this mortal coil. There is one at Yeovilton which is not too far out of range of Southampton, so maybe one day I can make a detour to there. 


How could you not love a nose like this? The aircraft in the left hand side is an AVRO-RJX, aka AVRO-146-RJX100, a really nifty little aircraft that I flew in twice when in the USA in 1999. I really scored two great aircraft in one day.  

I am afraid commercial airliners are not really my favourite, but some I do admire, and Concorde will always be on that list. The accident that caused the final grounding of the aircraft was a tragic one, made even more so by the video footage of that burning aircraft in its death throes. It is one aircraft that has a well deserved place in history, and will always be one of those aviation “greats”. It has never been equally by commercial aircraft, and if anything aircraft have just become fatter with even more people crammed into them. 

Concorde no longer graces us with her presence, but I think one of those truly magnificent moments are when you see footage of them coming into land, like a very graceful bird, landing at its home, and resting before soaring in the skies once again.

Update 22/01/2015
It is now 2015, and this past week I was on my way home from West Norwood in London when I spotted a Concorde from the train on the way to Basingstoke. Investigation revealed that this is G-BBGD and 2 days later I was on my way to Brooklands to see her.  Unfortunately the weather was grey and gloomy, so my pics were not great, but just the thrill of seeing my third Concorde made the trip worthwhile.

According to the blurb: 202 was one of three Concordes built for evaluation testing and final design. It made its first flight in 1974, wearing BA’s colours. It last flew in December 1981 and was bought by BA in 1984 for spares – proving useful right up until 2001, when it was used to test the reinforced cockpit doors required for all aircraft after 9/11. It moved to Brooklands in 2003.




She is still beautiful, she still draws crowds, and she is still one of the most iconic aircraft ever built. I am happy to report I have seen 3 of them now and still not got on board!

Much has been written about the aircraft and its history, and I do recommend Heritage Concorde as a source for all things Concorde.

© DRW 2013-2018. Created 01/10/2013. Updated 22/01/2015, images recreated 12/04/2016

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:55

The only way to fly?

Ships are my first love, and I have always had an affection for aircraft too. But there is one aircraft that transcends both land and sea, and that is the flying boat. I was very amazed to discover one in Southampton at the Solent Sky Museum, and I shifted my priorities slightly to be able to experience this piece of aviation history. 
Technically the aircraft is a Short Sunderland, but she was converted into a Sandringham in 1947. She is a chunky aircraft and on land she looks clumsy, and it seems as if she is looking out of the window at the distant water and dreaming of the days gone by.
Her passenger accommodation is spacious, and much better than the “knees up your nose” sardine tin accommodation on todays mass market aircraft. But back in those days long distant travel was a much longer affair, and it could take many days to get to your destination. Going by ship was a very viable alternative too. 
In 1947 she made the long trip out to New Zealand and remained in service with various operators until withdrawn in 1974. A further career in the Caribbean kept her going until 1978. She was then placed in storage. 
She finally arrived in Calshot in 1981, having flown a total of 19500 hours. In 1982 the aircraft was purchased by the Science Museum and was destined to be the centre piece of what is now the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton. 
The aircraft is in the Ansett Flying Boat Services “Delta” colours, and is registered as VH-BRC, and carries the name “Beachcomber”. 
The aircraft could carry 30 passengers, and it must have been quite a thrill to be on board during take-off and landing.  She is a big aircraft and it is difficult to imagine her taxing across the water. 
The aircraft is “open” for viewing and a guide will take you up into the cockpit to see the view outside from “the office”.
And, you can stick your head out of the hatch for a view of the tail…
It must have been quite an experience to sit up there with those  4 engines so close to your head, and just blue sea below, or even just standing on that maintenance platform working on the engines. 
Even her wing floats are big, and compare with some of the smaller aircraft in the museum.
And being a working aircraft she had lots of hidden areas too, which were the domain of members of her crew.
Like many other Sunderlands this particular aircraft saw service during World War 2, and as such would have looked very different inside. They were particularly feared by U-boats and earned the nickname “the Flying Porcupine” by those who ended up on the wrong end of the stick. 
Sadly, there are very few of these big flying boats left, they were part of a unique part of world and aviation history and as such have faded into memory. However, I am glad that I got to visit this sleeping beauty in a city that they would have called home. I just wish that I had been able to see her in her natural element.
Solent Sky is a wonderful museum and it is worth going there just to see this old lady. I have more pics of the museum  on allatsea
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 10/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:47

The Spitfire Legacy

Southampton is Supermarine territory. That most famous of World War 2 fighters was born in this town and there are a number of references to it. I believe that the Supermarine assembly plant used to be on the one bank of the Itchen River where the Itchen Bridge currently is and  and it is possible that some of the original factory buildings are still there. Further up towards Southampton Airport is the South Stoneham Cemetery, and within its walls/hedges/fences is buried RJ Mitchel, the man who designed this iconic aircraft. 
There are a number of interesting references to the aircraft in and around Southampton, and I have not found all of them yet.  The most obvious one of course is the sculpture of the original K5054 that may be found on a roundabout at Southampton Airport. Formerly Eastleigh Aerodrome, it was the site of the first flight of the aircraft in March 1936.
Reginald Mitchell is buried in South Stoneham Cemetery, which is on the approach path to Southampton airport, and while he died in 1937, he never lived to see the formidable aircraft that it turned out to be.
A bit further away, near Hamble-Le-Rice, is the Air Transport Auxiliary Memorial, and its main artwork is yet another Spitfire in all its glory. 
Oddly enough, there is only one example of the real aircraft in Southampton, and that is at Solent Sky Museum close to the harbour. 
This particular aircraft, a MK24 (PK683), was one of twenty seven converted from MK22’s. It would have been powered by a Rolls Royce Griffon engine. Interestingly enough, the museum also houses Supermarine S6A.
Finally, the Spitfire is also remembered at a complex called “Spitfire Close” which is almost on top of where where the original Supermarine factory used to be on the Itchen River. A Spitfire has been laid out in paving bricks, and at ground level may not be too noticeable, but from the bridge that towers above it you can plainly see the iconic wing shape of the legendary aircraft. 
There is a Memorial Plaque in front of the paving.

The whole complex has a Supermarine motief.

Although the real cherry on the cake is outside the complex, and I would have missed it if I had not known it was there.

The plaque is not easy to read, but in essence it reads:

In Memory of the Designer of the Legandary Spitfire Aircraft
On this site the first Spitfire was built by The Supermarine Aviation
Works (Vickers) Limited. Spitfires and their pilots played a decisive 
Part in the Battle of Britain 1940. This plaque was unveiled by
Mr Alan Clifton M.B.E.  BSr  FRAES

I do know there is a Spitfire House somewhere in Southampton, as well as a harbour launch called Spitfire, although I suspect Seafire would have been more appropriate.
And there is this strange mural on a subway wall near the stadium.

But I wonder what it was like all those years ago when the first Spitfire took off from Eastleigh and soared in the sky above, I am sure nobody recognised that a legend had been born.  

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 09/06/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:23

Farewell Ark Royal.

Today another iconic ship left on her way to the breakers. HMS Ark Royal set off from Plymouth on 20 May 2013 under tow for Turkey where she is to be broken up. It is always sad to see a ship go to the breakers, they are usually with us for so long, and we cannot really picture a time when they are no longer there. The Ark was launched on 2 June 1981, and at that moment I was almost 18 months into my national service. It is now over 30 years later and she is heading for her end.
I was in Portsmouth twice this year, and on my second  visit was on a harbour cruise where I spotted her amongst the other ships at the dockyard. She was partly obscured by HMS Edinburgh, but she still loomed over her, as if to say “I am still here, don’t forget about me”.
 Sadly, even HMS Edinburgh may soon be taking that long last tow, or end up laid up at Fareham Creek like so many of her fleetmates. The days of these ships are finite, and as much as we wish they could be with us forever, we know that very rarely do preserved ships last very long. Those that do survive into preservation have a tenuous existence, always at the mercy of accountants and rubber stamps.
Many years ago I saw another proud aircraft carrier on her last commission: HMS Eagle called in Durban during December 1971 while we were holidaying there. I was 10 years old and the sight of that ship never left me, and was probably more fuel for my love of ships. Sadly I did not see the Ark at the end of her tow rope, but I know people watched her go, and waved, and ships blew their sirens for her, and as she disappeared into the haze I know that there were many who shared a tear for a great ship. She will live on in the history books, and in the memories of those who built, sailed and loved her. Her entry in the book of great ships is written; as the fifth ship to bear that proud name.
Fair weather for your final voyage HMS Ark Royal.  
I revisited Portsmouth and Gosport on 28/09/2014 and Ark Royal’s fleetmate HMS Illustrious was alongside being destored prior to being laid up for sale.
*Update 07/12/2016*
This morning HMS Illustrious slipped her moorings and was towed from Portsmouth en route to the breakers.  Fair weather for your final voyage HMS Illustrious.  
© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 08/04/2016. Illustrious images added 08/04/2016, updated 07/12/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:04
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