View Full Version : Light aircraft in (British) museums

31st Dec 2003, 20:10
Not to denegrate the brilliant history of British military aviation, but we've produced a few damned good light and microlight aircraft over the years. To name a few, Cody's Kite, much of the early de-Havilland production, Britten-Norman's early prototypes (or the Islander itself), Beagle Pup and Bulldog, MBA Tiger Cub, the numerous Pegasus and Mainair microlights, the Noble Hardman Snowbird, Edgley Optica, Thruxton Jackaroo etc. etc.

Occasionally you'll come across some interesting piece of British light aviation history tucked away under the wing of a Sptifire - the early powered hang-glider at Wroughton, the prototype Bulldog at East Fortune, the Weedhopper at Caernarfon and so on. But for such a huge section of British aviation it's grossly under-represented. For that matter certain foreign light aircraft, such as the C150 or PA28 have had a huge effect on British light aviation.

I think there's something wrong here, does anybody else? If so, any ideas what, if anything, might be done about it?


31st Dec 2003, 20:20
If I remember correctly the Science Museum in London has a Cessna C150 on display.

The Berkshire Museum of Aviation has a large proportion of its space given over to Miles and other locally built aircraft.

I fly a C172 that wouldn't look out of place in a museum! :D

31st Dec 2003, 23:28
Turning this on its head, I think it's a shame that so many historic British light aircraft are mouldering in museums or museum stores when they could and should be where they belong — in the air. Since you mention East Fortune, Pilotage, wouldn't it be so much better to see the GAL Cygnet, Miles Monarch and the now unique Miles M.18-2 aloft again? There are people out there with the technical and financial ability to make it happen. But for me it is near criminal that the RAF Museum still sits on — and does nothing with — the Miles Hawk Major G-ADMW and is to relegate the ex-Lindberg Miles Mohawk to static display when neither aircraft has more than the most tenuous connection with the RAF. Again, there are restorers/would-be owners out there (some not unknown to these threads) who would love to be given the opportunity to rescue them from ground-borne oblivion. The point has been well made here previously that these kinds of aeroplanes are not going to pull in the non-enthusiast public and generate the income that museums need, so let's have them flying again in the hands of sympathetic operators.

vintage ATCO
1st Jan 2004, 00:33
Couldn't agree more, Aerohack.


1st Jan 2004, 00:51
Hear hear Aerohack!

I have written letters in the past in the vain hope of acquiring the M18 and the Hawk - both restorable, albeit at cost way beyond their market value, and should be in the air.

In the case of the Hawk (quick drool removal from chin) - it could be flying at Old Warden within 2 years (?) alongside my Maggie and Falcon, enjoyed by many. Eager craftsmen would benefit from probably £200k-worth of work.

Instead, it sits on flat tyres covered in dust and the fabric/ ply skin hanging off it.

When I last looked at it and remarked at the damage to the airframe my guide admitted that 'some ATC Cadets had been climbing over it'.

Why oh why do they feel he need to hang on to it? What is the connection? Why dont they sell it to me and put the money towards the restoration of something more likely to pull the punters in?

I will pay good money for it - lots more than its true value. To most it is a pile of rotting plywood. To me, it is a realisable dream.

Dream on HP.. It ain't gonna happen.

For some reason, it has been elevated to 'special preservation' status and therefore cannot be sold.

Anybody out there know any more than I?

Do you think that they might swap it for my Magister? Whilst I can't imagine my perfectly airworthy Maggie in a museum I would rather that than the Hawk sit in some dusty old store. At least there are another 2 Maggies flying in the UK.

Food for thought (and much better than Turkey.......!)

A Happy New Year to all Historic buffs.


1st Jan 2004, 01:01
I'm obviously out of step, and on the wrong side of the Atlantic as well.

But I think that it is rather selfish to fly the SOLE remaining example of a significant aircraft. Future generations are likely to be left with nothing but splinters and photos to look at rather than the real thing.


1st Jan 2004, 01:21
The Ulster Aviation Society display a Cessna 172 (very early one) a Robinson R22 (free hangarage I believe) and a Lake Amphibian. All of which I am sure could be airworthy, but as the days of getting close to aeroplanes have all but gone to the general public, IMHO there is a place for such exhibits: Especially if Joe Public can get hands on without fear of putting life in danger.

1st Jan 2004, 03:30
There is a very difficult balancing act to be done. Certainly it would be nice to see types like the Monarch fly again but the fact that a type is restored to airworthiness doesn't mean that it will
always remain in an airworthy condition or indeed stay in the U.K.
Museums will by their very nature aim to acquire aircraft they deem to be interesting. This can be to the detriment of types like
the Airedale ,Piper Colt and Aztec for example which have played an unsung role in British aviation . The concept of returning sole survivors to the air is fraught with difficulties. Types like the Avro Club Cadet became extinct in the U.K with the loss of G-ACHP
and many would argue that the the risk isn't always worth the return. The Comet G-ACSS having suffered another incident in it's
chequered life becomes even more watered down by the replacement of original undercarriage parts with new items.
The Hawk with the RAFM was surveyed in the 1990's with a view to it returning to the air and being operated on the RAFM's
behalf by a collection. I guess the idea of swapping it for a Magister wouldn't excite the RAFM as this would just result in duplication.

1st Jan 2004, 04:41

The Ulster Aviation Society are not those who have allowed these aeroplanes to rot. You are talking about the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. The Ulster Aviation Soc are enthusiasts who have tried as Hairyplane has tried to bust these things out of the museum. By the way the Folk museum also have a Short"twin gipsy queen flying boat whose name escapes me" perhaps seaford perhaps not that is also rotting beautifully.

They are more interested in butter churns from the 1850's than aeroplanes and this is typical when you have a round peg in a square hole problem. The Hawk is not a "core" exhibit.

Question for all you out there however. How did they make the moulded nose cone on the Short s16 scion. On VH-UTV I have an aluminium one of the wrong shape which requires remaking. Was it Paper mache or a massive bakalite moulding. Any Ideas?

1st Jan 2004, 14:24
Thanks Bral

I did and sent to you a missive about a flight to Alice in the Rapide. Did you get it?

I'll send it again anyway and have a great new year.

surely not
2nd Jan 2004, 00:56
I agree with the sentiments at the beginning of this thread, it is a great shame that the light aircraft that are, and have been, the backbone of British Aviation are not considered exciting enough to preserve.

Sadly that view might be correct. Apart from Shuttleworth displays, you can watch a crowd lose interest when the whizz bang modern fighters have displayed. Off they troup to the beer or burger tent whilst above them the Slingsby T67 is turning itself inside out.

Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of publicised opportunity for people to see those that are preserved by private individuals at organised fly-ins. I guess the main exception is the DH Moth club fly-ins.

For me, one of the top 10 moments in the last 5 years was seeing the DH Dragonfly circling to land at Shoreham. Not having seen it before, I detoured in to the airport just to watch it land, clear customs and depart again. I was amazed at how excited I was to see such a beautiful and unique aircraft flying. Biggest disappointment, I didn't have my camera with me!!

This thread prompted me to leaf through a book my dad gave to me to look after entitled 'Aircraft of the British Empire' and dated 1934. There are 74 types of British military and civil aircraft described and with photgraphs, of which there are no more than 15-17 types still in existence and some of those are barely recognisable.

I don't agree with seacue, I like to see the aircraft alive and flying in the same way I like to see preserved steam locos hissing steam and belching smoke.

Genghis the Engineer
2nd Jan 2004, 04:27
Perhaps the answer is for other sites to emulate the approach of Old Warden? Operate unique light aircraft, under great care, in museum conditions where they can be seen on the ground mostly, and seen flying when conditions are perfect to ensure that they remain in good condition.

Probably a good strategy for any museum hoping to increase the proportion of experienced aviation professionals amongst it's volunteer force too.


2nd Jan 2004, 06:33
I agree entirely - whilst I think it is necessary to remind the general public about GA, the majority are not that much interested in light aircraft - exceptions are aircraft with real history behind them such as Amy Johnson's Gipsy Moth at the Science Museum. That could also be applied to Alex Henshaw's Mew Gull, but I suspect that very few members of the modern public are going to know anything about that particular record and the incredible story behind it - and I defy anyone who has seen and heard her in the air recently to argue that she should be grounded in a museum! And yes, I know she's already been written off twice since Tom Story and Martin Barraclough got her flying again.

Incidently Scion, it's the Short Sealand that is rotting at UFT - the slightest prospect of that beautiful aeroplane flying again would have Aerohack and me salivating in sympathy with Hairyplane!

2nd Jan 2004, 07:07
Interesting discussion- we cannot however speculate on the public's interest in GA aviation without some facts to back it up.
My children can quite readily tell me if a Cessna is flying overheard or indeed a Tiger Moth. I wager that they wouldn't stand a chance of knowing what a Vulcan,Canberra or Hunter for example are if they fly over.
The vast majority of flying in the U.K is GA and airliner types - we therefore cannot choose to ignore or indeed presume that there isn't an interest in them. I am a great believer in 'setting out your stall ' and then letting the public decide themselves.
For example the Turbulent at the Midland Air Museum stands next to a Flettner helicopter frame which is of great historical importance to rotor flight. I bet far more members of the public show a interest in the Turbulent purely because of it's looks
and the fact that they can relate to it.
The presentation of light aviation is what is needed - make things bright and fun and people will show an interest - tuck things in dark corners under military aircraft and the public will naturally look away.

2nd Jan 2004, 13:09
Indeed Tredigraph et al

Shuttleworth is the answer in a way.

However National and even regional differences in the UK and the rest of the world will make a most enlightening set of differences.

To set up a similar system you need a benign Faciest , with or without revisionest tendancies, to get use of an airstrip with a lot of enthusiasts.

Any of you folk would be OK but Hairyplane with his Miles stable springs to mind.

Any chance?

2nd Jan 2004, 16:29
Hi Seacue,

Wow....negative or what?!

If yours was the majority view then the aviaton scene would be a much duller place.

The Shuttleworth Collection comprises many 'last survivors'. The Collections aircraft are carefully and safely displayed by some of the best pilots in the UK.

It is of course possible to cite a number of examples in support of your position in the regular 'fly or not to fly' arguments.

However, it is a question of degree.

As far as I am concerned, I worry about the ressurection of 'complex' types, simply because we as a race and in the face of ever-changing technologies, seem to suffer rapid amnesia when it comes to old flying machinery. We not only need to learn to fix them up, we need to learn to fly them all over again, and with all the inherent risks.

New type/ new engine/ sketchy misleading or downright innaccurate historical data/ etc. etc. - all produce challenges that should only be undertaken by a proper test pilot.

In the case of simple types, this is usually straightforward. In the case of complex types, I take my hat off to those in whose shadow mere mortals like me will only ever walk.

Another concern of mine is that money and not skill can put somebody in the hot seat. An average PPL can bore holes in the sky in a jet or a warbird - no problem. Its when things go wrong that you rely heavily on your training. That training ordinarily involved getting chopped if you weren't good enough.

These days, money can buy the repetitions that may well result in a satisfactory performance on a good day.

Head now well and truly above the parapet - a Turkey sandwich for the first direct hit!


2nd Jan 2004, 17:46
The Fly/Not to Fly argument is one I’ve had face-to-face and in print many times. There is no ‘right’ answer. But I’ve seen Hairy’s Falcon and Shuttleworth’s Southern Martlet looking forlorn and dust-covered in the backs of hangars (the same hangar, indeed) and I’ve watched the sun flashing off their wings as they round the kink in the display line at Old Warden, and I know which excites me more.

Same with cars. I could spend days enjoying the delights of Beaulieu or the Haynes Museum, but the hairs on the back of my neck never stand up as they do when hearing a Can-Am McLaren firing up, seeing Phil Hill back behind the wheel of a Daytona Cobra or watching Moss effortlessly lapping Goodwood in a C-Type Jaguar and wagging an admonishing finger at a young upstart who tries unsuccessfully to outbrake him into Woodcote.

And whilst I’ve seen rare aeroplanes and cars demolished in front of me, I would still accept no substitute for sight, sound, smell and all the other elements that make them more than mere assemblages of wood, fabric, metal and glassfibre.

2nd Jan 2004, 17:47
Ah Scion, when I am rich (you can keep the famous bit!)... Always harboured a fancy for buying Wisley Aerodrome and turning it into a vintage aircraft mecca, but I suspect the nearby RHS gardens would protest!

Hairy I think you are quite right - no vintage missiles from this direction and in any case there is ample turkey in the freezer for the next several Christmases... I guess you will always get the odd hotshot who will ultimately bend the aeroplane because that is the way they are, and the thought of possibly killing somebody else or ruining the party for all the other guests does not enter their head. On the other hand I am sure we can all think of cautious, competent pilots who have gone about things the right way; and yet have been caught out by circumstance and have lost their lives where a more experienced pilot perhaps might not...

It's a difficult subject, but I'll aver that legislation would not be an answer. Perhaps an all-encompassing non-profit Historic Aircraft Club - covering Bleriots to Hunters (or even the Vulcan!) which could help with training, seminars, shared experiences (sounds a bit suspect that!), etc, might be the way?

9th Jan 2004, 03:07
Treadigraph et al,

It has been the case that most aeroplanes have been preserved by individuals who have been more far sighted than museums. The problems are that museums have to "report" to somewhere and thus have to subscribe to the current "conventional wisdom" Unfortunatly that is the way it is.

In Australia, we have been fortunate to an extent that our beloved Govt demanded that only "imperial" product be purchased for the time that a lot of these aeroplanes flowered.

Now in Sydney our masters the pollies have sold all the GA airports to a monopoly and we expect some difficulies in the future.

So we are setting up a field, devoted to antiques, aeroplanes and human , near to Sydney. There are 5 flying plus at least 3 projects going there. The property has been secured, one hanger is there already and another 25meters square has the foundations laid. The strip is not long, 600 meters but can be realigned to get 900.

Have you blokes any advise. I have written to the "Real Aeroplane Co" but have not received as yet a reply with the same request.

I really want to get general advise but in particular insurance advise.

9th Jan 2004, 14:31
Hi Scion, Congratulations!

We have corresponded before - a happy new year to you from 'up over.'

My 2 vintage aircraft are operated out of Shuttleworth.

Keep an eye on this thread - plenty of advice will be forthcoming!

Never visited - relatives there - maybe I should plan a trip?!



6th Feb 2004, 05:03
Sad to see Wisley in the state it's in now. I drove down the runway - which is all chunked up - total vandalism by mindless, monied morons who live around there. It could so easily have made a living as a GA place or even heliport......:ugh:

6th Feb 2004, 23:03
Hello Scion

Your antiques near Sydney sounds well worth a visit for Ppruners when downunder. Can you provide a link or other information? Might be down that way later this year, would love to drop in. When will it be open to the public/Ppruners?

Thanks H

8th Feb 2004, 06:15
[email protected],
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