Tag Archives: num:ScienceMuseum=1978-188

How did we get the planes in?

Last week one of our visitors asked us a question via Twitter while looking round our third-floor Flight gallery:

Help me settle a debate @sciencemuseum, how did you get the planes in the flight exhibit into the building?

Good question. First opened in 1963, the gallery was refurbished in the 1990s when a couple of new planes (including our Hawker jump-jet and a Hawker Siddeley executive jet) were added.

HS.125 executive jet, 1965 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

To get the aircraft into the gallery, we took some windows out, built a platform out above the service road that runs alongside the building, and craned the aircraft up and inside. Most were dismantled before transportation – the wings were removed, for instance – and then they were rebuilt inside the gallery before being hung up.

We’ve got planes in other galleries, too. If you made it to the Making the Modern World gallery during your visit, you’ll have found a gorgeous Lockheed ‘Electra’ airliner swooping down on you, as well as an Avro 504K biplane, a Rolls-Royce vertical-take-off test rig and a Short SC 1 aircraft.

Short SC 1 aircraft and Rolls-Royce test rig, 1950s (Science Museum / Science & Society)

As this gallery is on the ground floor, life was a bit easier. The aircraft were brought in to the gallery on low-loaders, reassembled on the gallery floor, then hung up by a team of rigging contractors. This was done before the smaller exhibits were installed, but it was still a real 3D jigsaw for the project managers to work it out.

Lockheed 'Electra' airliner (Science Museum / Science & Society)

I’ve found some lovely photos of the early-1960s aircraft installation. I’m getting them scanned, and I’ll post them here in a couple of weeks. Watch this space…

Volcanic effects

What a spectacularly unexpected week it’s been for transport. I don’t suppose many of us imagined seeing this kind of warning notice on the Underground…

London Underground notice warning of volcanic ash, 15 April 2010 (David Rooney)

As I write this at the weekend, the volcano is still erupting, and pretty much all UK flights have been grounded since Thursday afternoon.

It’s dangerous to attempt to fly through the ash cloud, as news reports have explained. The ash contains glass which can melt and then harden inside jet engines, causing them to shut down. Airlines are now carrying out test flights to assess the potential for damage.

Seeing this huge Rolls-Royce RB211 engine in the Science Museum’s Flight gallery gives an idea of the size and complexity of modern jet engines, which are masterpieces of precision engineering.

Rolls-Royce RB211 jet engine, 1970 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

But, as we’ve all been reminded this week, the power of the jet engine is nothing in the face of violent nature.

Scientists have been studying volcanoes and their effects for centuries, with scientific explorers in the eighteenth century making some strikingly beautiful images of volcanic eruptions and their aftermath.

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 1779 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

These etchings of a 1779 eruption of Italy’s Mount Vesuvius by Peter Fabris, from William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei, demonstrate the sheer force involved.

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 1779 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Our copy of Campi Phlegraei is housed at the Science Museum Library and Archives at Wroughton. All the images have been scanned for our Ingenious website – see them here – or why not make an appointment to see them in the flesh?