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The Farnborough Air Show is a biennial jamboree that’s actually more market place than show. It’s where you come to buy aircraft or satellites or spare parts or just about anything you might need if your business is about flying high.  But this year I abandoned the trade halls to watch the Avro Vulcan XH558 bomber take off – its Olympus engines howling like no other jet, and then land, having thrilled the crowds with a beautiful, graceful and yes – […]

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how we got the aircraft into our Flight gallery, in response to a Twitter question. I said I’d been to our photo archive to see if we had any pictures of the 1960s aircraft installation, and I turned up lots of great images. Well, the scans have just arrived, so for those interested in how to get a Supermarine S6B world-speed-record-breaking aeroplane into a third-floor gallery in central London in 1961, here goes… […]

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. To get the aircraft into the gallery, we took some windows out, built […]

I visited Tate Britain last weekend to see a pair of fighter planes newly on show in the gallery’s central halls. Created by British artist Fiona Banner, Harrier and Jaguar sees a Sea Harrier suspended like a ‘captured bird’, according to the gallery, with a Jaguar nearby ‘belly up on the floor, its posture suggestive of a submissive animal’. It’s an arresting display. There’s nothing else. Just the two jets, one stripped bare, flipped over and defenceless, the other hanging menacingly as […]

Many seventeen-year-olds become very familiar with the world of insurance as they pick up the keys for their first hot hatch… Few of us think about the system that sits behind our insurance policies, but everything in the transport world plays its part in a network of brokers, underwriters, syndicates and financiers – from passenger jets to fleets of reps, container ships to communication satellites. Transport pioneers have long needed the services of insurers. One item in our archive is a 1907 insurance […]

Did anyone catch ‘Britain’s Greatest Machines’ on Five last Thursday? Chris Barrie is presenting a series looking at the evolution of engineering in Britain, directed by science documentarist Martin Gorst. Much of what was talked about in the first episode, covering the 1910s, is represented (as you might expect) in the Science Museum’s collections. Back then we’d just become a fledgling museum in our own right and we were hungry to collect the very latest machines and inventions. In the show, you […]

Well, it’s Wednesday morning and it looks like we might soon be able to stop sheltering from the sky. With air travel still a problem as airlines attempt to return to schedule, fresh attention has been turning to the sea. The Royal Navy brought home some travellers on a warship, and demand for ferries has been high. For passengers between the UK and France or Belgium, the Eurostar rail service has been a possibility (if you can get a ticket). Back in 1936, […]

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… 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. […]

I talked last time about my recent trip to Southampton. While in town, I popped into the wonderful Solent Sky aviation museum. Whilst much of our aircraft collection is on show in London, and our Wroughton site houses some of the bigger craft, we also have a number of aeroplanes (and other transport artefacts) on loan to other museums. Solent Sky is home to our Short flying boat. Built in 1943 as a military-specification ‘Sunderland’, it was later converted to the civilian ‘Sandringham’ […]

I mentioned recently the 225-year anniversary of the first manned flight across the English Channel in 1785, following the first successful balloon ascents in 1783. Some observers sceptically asked what use the new technology offered, failing to spot the opportunities it could afford. American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin scoffed at their short-sightedness, retorting, ‘what is the use of a new-born child?’ Ballooning hit eighteenth-century society with a bang, quickly becoming a fashionable spectator sport with men and women routinely risking their lives […]

Back in July last year, I kicked off this blog with a post about Louis Blériot’s historic crossing of the English Channel a century ago. Blériot’s journey is rightly considered a momentous event in aviation history, but it wasn’t the first flight across. That happened 225 years ago this week. Whilst Blériot had a powered, heavier-than-air craft, on 7 January 1785, Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries were the first people to cross the Channel in a balloon. This is a wonderful pair of […]

As we navigate our way through the festive season, and possibly eat and drink a little more than is wise, it is always worth remembering the most basic transportation device of all: Shank’s pony, or going for a walk. Maybe you’re a sporty type like these two, full of energy and ready to bound out of the house for a good stride across the countryside… You can even keep count of your paces as you march along using a pedometer… But […]