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 Viscount. 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 Concorde 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.