Tuesday, October 26, 2010

National Museum of Flight in East Fortune

During my recent holiday in the beautiful country of Scotland, I managed to squeeze-in (special thanks to my lovely Betty) a quick visit to the National Museum of Flight located in East Fortune, East Lothian. Taking a 45 minute bus-trip from North Berwick, the hangars can be seen from a long distance as the area is entirely agricultural. On reaching the place, it almost feels like you go back in the 1940s. In fact, East Fortune is one of the best preserved bomber type WWII airfields and it really looks like the whole area went through very few changes. With a 50+ collection of aircraft, this is a great site, really worth going to.

Hangar 4 is the one housing the BAC Concorde, the true icon of supersonic passenger aircraft. It's very well kept inside & outside and it's undoubtely the main attraction. Visitors can go aboard and have access at the front part of the fuselage, but can also have a look tat the cockpit section through a glass door. The interior is very limited in space but having a trip on this aircraft must have been a fabulous experience. Also in the hangar, there is a chance to step in a nice BOAC Boeing 707 front fuselage section.

Hangar 3 is the restoration area including a beautiful Bristol Bolingbroke (a variant of the popular Blenheim Mk IV bomber) and a Bristol Beaufighter in their long term restoration process. Also in display were a Sea Venom, a Vickers Viscount, a Percival Provost and a Morane Soulnier MS 505 (French copy of the German Fiesler Storch Fi-156). Among them (last pic), there is one of only two remaining examples of the Cygnet II, which was a RAF two-seat trainer aircraft used in 40s & 50s. This one in particular, which sports the typical RAF trainer markings, was flown twice by the famous first commander of 617 Squadron, Guy Gibson.

On my way to Hangar 2, I spotted this Matador artillery truck. This is one of 9,000 built during WWII and used by all three armed forces. This RAF version was used to move heavy loads and despite the top speed was only 30mph, it could carry a 10 tonne load. This example was brought back from Malta in 1978 and is believed to have been used by the RAF during the war.

Hangar 2 is home of the civil aviation aircraft. Various examples: de Havilland Dragon DH.84, Britten Norman Islander, Tiger Moth, Twin Pioneer, Avro Anson (in restoration), Miles M.18 and Jetstream.

Next were another two outside exhibits: The world's first commercial jet airliner,
the De Havilland Comet and...

...Vulcan B.2 XM597, which is one of the five Vulcans which saw action in the "Black Buck" operations during the 1982 Falklands war. It was originally built to carry the Skybolt stand-off bomb and the mountings for this type of bomb are still fitted under the wings. On the side of the fuselage, there are two missile markings:

The first one, credited on 1st June 1982, when it fired two Shrike missiles, one of which damaged a mobile radar. It returned unharmed to Ascension Island after a 16 hour-total flight time, one of the longest missions in the history of warfare.

The second one, credited on 3rd June 1982, when it fire another two Shrike missiles, one of which successfully destroyed a radar killing 4 Argentinian operators. On the final rendezvous with a Victor tanker, however, XM597's refueling probe snapped off and the crew were forced to divert towards South America and Brazil. The aircraft landed with very limited fuel remaining in the tanks, but due to a Shirke missile which couldn't be jettisoned before landing, the crew eventually went through a lot of problems with Brazilian authorities. They were released only after 7 days and captain of XM597, Sqn Ldr Neil McDougall was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on behalf of his crew's endeavour. Hence the Brazilian flag on the side of fuselage.

Next was Hangar 1 with its collection of military aircraft. Lots of stuff to see here:

Lightning F.2A XN776 of 92 Squadron in olive drab colors.

Tornado F.3 (ZE934) which saw action in the 1990 & 1991 Gulf War and then ended
its service life at RAF Leuchars

A very rare sight is this Messerschmitt Me-163 B-1a "Komet" serial number 191659.

Another aircraft I was looking forward to, is this S-102 in Czechoslovakian markings. It's basically a MIG-15 built under license in Czechoslovakia. Superb design and a Korean War icon.

Supermarine Spitfire XVI (TE462)

Hawker Siddeley Harrier (XV277) , is the oldest Harrier airframe in existence and the second ever produced by Hawker Siddely.

McDonnell Douglas Phantom (155848). Started its career with the US Navy and eventually with the US Marines VMFA-232 "Red Devils".

English Electric Canberra (VX185) record breaker in 1956, with an Atlantic crossing in 3 hours 25 minutes & 18 seconds.

SEPECAT Jaguar (XZ119) "Katrina Jane", which flew 39 missions during the first Gulf War from October 1990 until March 1991.

Blackburn Buccaneer (XT288)

Hawker Sea Hawk (WF259)

Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.14

Unfortunately I didn't make it in time to photograph the remaining areas but nontheless my visit at East Fortune has been undoubtely very enjoyable.

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