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Gatwick Aviation Museum - Charlwood, Surrey, April 15th and 1st September 2017
With the long winter gone and spring definitely in the air, the airshow season still seemed a long way off. We knew the aviation itch had to be scratched and to kick off our 2017 we, that is me and my two sons/partners in crime, set off for the Gatwick Aviation Museum in Surrey in early April. Being only 35 minutes or so away from our house I realised it was rather criminal that we had never been before and that omission was further underlined when we got there as we saw the impressive range of airframes, engines and models on display.
The museum’s theme centres on British aircraft from Post World War Two to the Cold War with a selection of RAF and RN aircraft and cockpit sections on show both inside and outside, a rolling program of restoration married with the opening of a new hangar in 2016 helping to restore several of the aircraft back to their former glory. These include Hawker Sea Hawk FB5 XE364, de Havilland Sea Vixen TT8 XS587 and my favourite Cold War pairing of 3 Squadron Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR3 XV751, complete with SNEB rocket pods, and live, ex-Saudi English Electric Lightning F53 53-671. The Lightning, alongside another Cold War warrior, Avro Shackleton Mk3 WR982, are still live, both performing occasional engine runs at special events during the year.
The Shackleton lives outside and a free tour is offered by a knowledgeable expert who gives a fascinating account of life flying as an ASW and SAR asset hunting Russian submarines out in the cold expanses of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean amongst other operational areas. The chance to climb inside this aircraft, which is only a stones throw from the Lancaster, is a privilege indeed.
Being situated pretty much on Gatwick’s doorstep, being just north west of the runway, the museum has the added bonus of a viewing area where the departures can be seen as they power off with another set of holiday makers off to somewhere possibly more exotic, Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s being the more heavyweight types that can be seen. Unfortunately, as I write this in June 2019, the viewing area is currently closed although the museum hopes to be able to reinstate this in the future. However, even sitting in the picnic area gives a great view and it all adds to the aviation immersion.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding and we have since been back two more times, there being plenty to keep the kids occupied. I've no doubt that we will visit again in the near future!
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