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flight

Earlier this week I was at our site at Wroughton, Wiltshire, where I met a very special visitor. Joe Wright, together with his family, came to see one of our aircraft, a De Havilland Comet 4B jet. But it wasn’t the first time Joe saw our Comet at Wroughton – he was the very pilot who flew it in, thirty years ago! I was thrilled to meet him and talk about his experience. The final flight of the Dan-Air-owned Comet 4B […]

In my last entry Seaplanes and plump-bottomed angels, I introduced some of the people behind the Supermarine 6SB, a magnificent seaplane that won the Schneider Trophy. One person I didn’t introduce was the plane’s designer, Reginald Joseph Mitchell. Hewn from dark grey slate, his statue cuts an imposing figure in our Flight Gallery as it stares at the two great planes that made Mitchell’s reputation: the 6SB and the Spitfire. Mitchell was born in 1895 and at 16 he became an apprentice at the Kerr […]

Just a quick one today. Last time, I showed you our lovely Heathrow airline coach from the fifties. By the 1960s, these buses were transporting passengers to the latest airliners in the British European Airways (BEA) fleet – the Hawker Siddeley ‘Trident’. These three-engined jets were built by Hawker Siddeley to BEA’s specifications. We acquired ours in 1987, at the end of its 16-year lifetime. By then, BEA had become British Airways and the new firm was re-equipping with American-built Boeing aircraft (although Tridents […]

Ah, the half-term holidays. It was great to see so many visitors to the Science Museum last week – hope you had a good time! Others may perhaps have jetted away with the kids for a relaxing overseas break. Did you use Heathrow Airport? These days there are several ways to get there: car, taxi, train, Tube or coach. But for many travellers back in the 1950s, coach was the only option: That’s our AEC ‘Regal IV’ airline coach from […]

Even though I’ve worked at the Science Museum for eight years, I still find the Flight Gallery stunning. It reminds me of my childhood bedroom ceiling, with one big difference: I had plastic kits hanging in dogfight freeze frames, the Flight Gallery has the real things!  One thing that really sticks out is this crab incrusted trophy with the plump-bottom angel (supposed to represent the Spirit of Flight kissing the waves). It’s the Schneider Trophy, which was offered from 1913 to […]

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Concorde’s first flight (as prototypes numbered 001 and 002), and the iconic aircraft served passengers from 1976 to 2003. A fatal Concorde crash in Paris in July 2000 temporarily grounded the fleet, and economically, it seems, the writing was then on the wall for Concorde’s supersonic service. Our collections are rich with Concorde stuff. Top of the list is our own aircraft, prototype 002, on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton: In the Science […]

Yesterday, I visited the former Croydon Airport as part of my London Open House perambulations. Croydon was home to London’s first proper airport, with the purpose-designed terminal building opening in 1928. It’s now a visitor centre and business park. Increasing aircraft size, number of flights, and worries over proximity to a fast-growing London (sound familiar?) meant that Croydon’s days were numbered as an international airport after the Second World War, and the last flight left exactly fifty years ago, in September […]

Tuesday was the 90th anniversary of the first daily scheduled airline service. By today’s standards it was a pretty modest affair. The aircraft seated a grand total of two alongside packets of mail. But it was a start. The service ran between Hounslow Heath (near today’s London Heathrow Airport) and Le Bourget, just outside Paris. It was operated by the Aircraft Transport & Travel company run by George Holt-Thomas, and 25 August 1919 saw its inaugural flight. Those first services […]

I had a great day yesterday at the Science Museum Wroughton, recording a series of video interviews promoting the Festival of Innovation (12 – 13 September). I was there to talk about twenty transport icons that shaped the modern world. One was a Moulton bicycle, the first significant design change to the bike since J. K. Starley’s ‘Rover’ safety bicycle hit the scene in the 1880s. The Moulton is a small-wheel, compact cycle with full suspension that is easy to […]

Back in January, a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 airliner successfully tested a camelina-based biofuel, prompting hopes that a non-petroleum-based jet fuel might one day power the world’s airline fleets (and maybe cars and trucks too). At the Science Museum we’ve been tracking jet engine technology since it was first developed, back before the Second World War. Of particular note in our displays is the Gloster-Whittle E.28/39, Britain’s first successful jet aircraft: That’s in the Flight gallery, and you can find […]

It’s a busy time for transport anniversaries. I’ve already mentioned the centenary of Bleriot’s flight across the Channel and the ninetieth anniversary of Alcock & Brown’s crossing of the Atlantic. Today, I’ll talk about one more pioneering flight across water. The craft was called ‘SR-N1’ (Saunders Roe Number 1), and it too flew across the Channel, fifty years to the day since Bleriot first flew over. But this flight, in 1959, was very close to the water. You guessed it: […]

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: The first solo crossing was by Charles Lindbergh eight years later. Then there was a flight of the Friendship in June 1928 which […]