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Becky Honeycombe from our Learning Support Team writes about one of her favourite objects in the Museum. Have you ever dreamed of being able to fly like a bird?  Well if you have, you’re certainly not alone. The ability to fly has been a human obsession for thousands of years. One of the earliest references to bird-like flight is found in the Ancient Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus who attached feathers to their arms to escape captivity. However, the […]

From November 1782, James Watt and his friends were excited by the Montgolfier brothers’ experiments with hot air balloons. Watt wrote to Dr Joseph Black in 1783 that “The Whole World is Full of these Flying Balls at present”. In August 1783 the Frenchman J A C Charles and two brothers called Robert substituted hydrogen, or“inflammable air”, for hot air. Alarmed locals pitchforked their balloon where it landed. In December Charles and one Robert brother set off on their first manned flight, using hydrogen made by […]

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. […]