Tag Archives: num:ScienceMuseum=1982-964

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…

Amelia Earhart on time wastage

Last time I was recalling Louis Blériot’s historic crossing of the Channel a century ago. That got me thinking about other memorable sea crossings.

Ninety years ago, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown were the first people to cross the Atlantic by air, non-stop. Their Vickers ‘Vimy’ craft, pictured here, is on show in our Flight gallery:

Alcock & Brown's Vickers 'Vimy' aeroplane, 1919

The first solo crossing was by Charles Lindbergh eight years later.

Then there was a flight of the Friendship in June 1928 which carried Amelia Earhart, who thereby became the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air (she made the first female solo crossing four years later).

I picked up Earhart’s autobiographical account of her crossing. She was an accomplished aviator, and in her sparkling account she speaks eloquently of the state of flying in America in the 1920s – and the role of women in flight.

It’s a great read, and one passage made me think about the choices we make today about transport, time and distance.

She wrote, “Nothing, perhaps, is more appealing than the sense of quick accomplishment – of getting somewhere, sooner. Aviation means an approach to the elimination of time wastage, and seems to point the way to further increase in the world’s leisure”.

Time and motion. The shrinking of the world. This was the period of the Efficiency Movement, waging war on waste. But now, perhaps, it’s time to rethink some of Earhart’s ideas. Sometimes, slow is good, and doesn’t mean wasted time.

Could we fly less by taking trains and ships more? I’ll return to this theme in future.

For Amelia Earhart, time ran out in July 1937 in a Lockheed Electra airliner, as she attempted to circumnavigate the world. The plane went missing over the Pacific Ocean and neither it nor Earhart have been seen since. You can see an Electra up close in the Science Museum’s ‘Making the Modern World’ gallery. Here it is at our Wroughton (Wiltshire) site before it went on display in London:

Lockheed Electra 10A aircraft at Science Museum Wroughton