Tag: Weybridge

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 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.
 

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

DRW © 2015-2019. Images migrated 25/04/2016  
Updated: 13/07/2019 — 10:26

Visiting Vic’s Viking Garage

Many years ago there was a garage in Johannesburg that had a Vickers Viking on it’s roof. I kid you not, it was one heck of a landmark and everybody knew about it, but nobody could really tell you where it was! Somewhere near “Uncle Charlie’s” was the closest you could get to a reply. The fact remains though; the garage, situated in what is now Devland had this vintage Vickers Viking on it’s roof, and in 1987 that aircraft was removed and taken for “restoration” and replaced with a vintage Avro Shackleton.

I recall as a boy seeing the Viking but naturally no adults would stop the car and let you out so that you could go explore it, so it is just a vague memory.  In 2010 however I decided to go find this Shackleton and see whether it still existed, and what it looked like now, so many years after the fact.

Google Earth was duly consulted and the co-ordinates are:  26° 16.644’S  27° 56.683’E and you can actually see the aircraft on the satellite view.

However, finding the garage was a different ballgame so I asked the kind lady in the GPS to take me there. “Turn left” was all she said (as she always does).

Eventually I spotted my target in the distance and “turned left”.

The aircraft has been in a number of liveries as far as I can see, from her original SAAF colours, right through to a red livery and of course the current one, and probably a few other permutations along the way.  

But what about the Viking? According to http://aircraftnut.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/of-shackletons-and-vikings.html:  She was “built at the Vickers-Armstrongs factory in Weybridge, England, c/n 121 first took to the air on 30 August 1946, registered as G-AHOT with British European Airways and was used in the 1948 Berlin Airlift. On 26 September 1954 she was sold to Trek Airways, registered ZS-DKH and operated in Protea Airways colours, a second airline of Trek, and for many years, transported hundreds of passengers on leisurely and scenic flights between South Africa and Europe. She even starred in the film, “Kimberly Jim” with the late Jim Reeves. After 13.881 flying hours she was disassembled and transported by road to Armadale south of Johannesburg, where, in January 1963 she was lifted on to the roof of the Vic de Villiers “Vic’s Viking Service Station” where she became a famous, if forlorn, landmark.”  

Now the name Weybridge rings a bell, because Weybridge is also home to Brooklands Museum which I visited in January 2015 and they too have a Vickers Viking under restoration.

This particular aircraft is G-AGRU and there is an interesting footnote to the information sheet situated at the aircraft.

I can neither confirm or deny what the state of ZS-DKH is, the website that used to have information about her is giving me a 403 error. I have heard rumours that she was due to be taken to Rand Airport, but I will believe that when it actually happens. (or has it happened?)

As for our lonely Shackleton, she is SAAF 1723 and has been grounded since 22 November 1977.

Sadly, this lonely bird will never fly again, and in at some point she will be either stolen, dismantled or stripped for scrap metal. 

However, if you do want to see a Shackleton in her original glory then take a trip up to Swartkops AFB where sister aircraft 1721 is kept.

Although often described as “a hundred thousand rivets flying in close formation” these aircraft kept watch over our seas, and today these two examples are just some of the few remnants of a unique aircraft that performed it’s job and has become an icon. Vic De Villiers may have swapped out one old aircraft for another, but his foresight has kept this aircraft from becoming yet another image in a book or on a website. Hopefully one day that Viking will emerge too, and take her place in a museum.

Now if only I could find Uncle Charlies? Lady in the GPS where are you??

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Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:56
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