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:: Visit photos ::
» Aeroseum, Gothenburg
» Glider soaring, Ridali
» Tartu aviation museum
» Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
» Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum, Washington DC
» London Science Museum
» Riga aviation museum
» RAF Waddington Air Show 2008
» Goodwood Festival of Speed, United Kingdom
» Duxford IWM, United Kingdom
» Flying Legends air show 2008, United Kingdom
» London Imperial War Museum, United Kingdom
» Prague Kbely, Czech Republic
» Old Aeroplane Company, Australia
» Ansett Transport Museum, Australia
» War Memorial, Australia
» Canberra NASA Deep Space Communication Complex, Australia

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:: Duxford Imperial War Museum, United Kingdom ::

The Duxford Imperial War museum has an agreeable collection of planes and helicopters with lots of ground vehicles thrown into the mix. They call themselves Europe's premier aviation museum and I certainly have no evidence to the contrary.

When I first looked up the museum information, I found a list of planes. Usually one thinks of the individual aircraft on display. Here I soon understood that I need to count hangars instead. They have a wonderful collection of WWII birds, their very own AirSpace exhibition hangar (with the Concorde, Avro Vulcan and the Comet among others) and the American Air Museum, which stands as a memorial to the US assistance during the Second World War.

Naturally I wanted to visit the museum. Just a week after my visit to the RAF Waddington air show, I took a train from Victoria station in London to Gatwick airport and rented a car from there. I took the car specifically from Gatwick airport, not from central London - it was to be my first encounter with left hand drive. The embarrassment of driving through downtown London with my windscreen wipers on full tilt whenever I wanted to turn on indicator lights would have been unbearable. Even out in the countryside, it must have made for a weird sight.

Two hours (and a very tidy front window) later I had gotten the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road - a welcome realization, as I still had a the full weekend of driving ahead of me.

Duxford is 10 kilometers south of Cambridge and 70 kilometers north of central London, as the crow flies. After about an hour of driving, vintage airplanes started buzzing overhead. It was the Flying Legends airshow weekend and that, along with my GPS unit, clearly indicated arrival at my destination.

After parking, picking up all my camera gear, tripod and setting the GPS to track my path for eventual synchronization with photos, I was ready. Entry required the forking over of 25 pounds for adults (seniors 16 GBP, children 8 GBP).

I found lots of Fighter collection planes lined up along the runway and the air show in full swing. Even so, a great number of exhibits remained to be seen inside too. Almost the entirety of the naval plane exhibition with folding wings, a live torpedo boat, missiles and a weird WWII German contraption - a Focke Achgelis Fa-330 gyroglider or rotary-wing kite that was towed behind U-boats with long tethers for beyond-the-horizon visibility by the occupant. It is known to be responsible for aiding the sinking of a Greek steamer.

The Air and Space museum lineup was great, as was the American War Museum. The latter included the SR-71 that I also saw in the Udvar-Hazy museum in Washington. What's different about Duxford is that you can actually touch the planes (and not only some - all of the ones you can reach, starting from the massive B-52 Stratofortress, Bell Huey helicopter all the way to the P-51 Mustang). The Blackbirds skin was much-much thinner than I anticipated and the two engines much more complex than I previously thought.

The Duxford Imperial War Museum is a massive museum and is well worth the visit, even if you have to undertake a weekend drive to get there. If you can, arrange it to be on one of the several air shows they have each year. My visit was during the Flying Legends air show and I enjoyed it immensely (read the July 2008 travel report).

They really are the best aviation museum in Europe!

Further information:
- My Duxford IWM photos
- Duxford IWM Flying Legends air show travel report
- Duxford IWM Flying Legends air show photos
- Duxford Imperial War Museum official website
- Upcoming Duxford IWM air shows
- Duxford IWM American Air Museum website


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