Duxford Air Museum, Cambridge
It is thirty years since I last visited Duxford and still have the guide plus some paperwork from that visit. For anybody interested, the admission at that time was £1.50 (yes, one pound fifty) which apparently equates to £4.20 in today’s money.
There’s no question that a lot has changed, not least the new buildings that provide impressive and extensive undercover display areas. You also have to admit that the number and variety of aircraft within the collection is fantastic and therefore it follows that maintaining this collection and site must be expensive. Perhaps this alone is justification for the admission price increasing at over four times the rate of inflation!
Sad to say however, this comparatively high price does not in my view make it a five star attraction.
The catering facilities in no way match what should be reasonably expected. During my mid week outing I found the food limited in range, expensive and mediocre quality (which led to several overheard complaints to the staff from other visitors). This situation not only lets down the ‘home grown’ visitors but gives the worst impression to those visiting from overseas (who are probably a high overall proportion judging from the multiple languages I detected).
Duxford is described by its Director in the Guidebook as “one of the worlds leading aviation museums” however those in control don’t seem to realise that to be acknowledged as such, all the facilities available should be of a high standard.
In addition, and again taking into account aspirations for the venue as described by its Director, the level of entrance fee and the fact there is a runway to hand it’s unfortunate that there is no organised flying (apart from pleasure flights) during a normal day. I also found it surprising that there appeared to be nothing in place to specifically commemorate the WW1 hundred year anniversary.
As an engineer who has been involved with aircraft component production in the past I was specifically interested in seeing what was happening in terms of conservation. All I found in the relevant hanger was virtually no activity and one individual who obviously had no responsibility to explain what was happening. Surely, as one area where a high proportion of the money must be spent wouldn’t it be a good idea to explain to the paying public directly and in detail what is going on and how some of their admittance money is being spent?
Visit Duxford if you want to see varied and extensive static displays and read the associated descriptions - this alone will take the majority of a day. Take your own food and be prepared to walk over a comparatively large distance as there appears to be no transport (such as a land train) available to able-bodied visitors. Lastly, don’t expect much in the way of ‘live’ interaction or verbal explanation as is now widely found in other broadly similar museums.
If you visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, try to see one of the huge international air shows. This museum has more than just static displays; many aircraft, from both World Wars, the Cold War, and more recent times, fly in these shows. Go to the site, and click on Air Shows 2006.
once an airfield playing a key role in the Battle of Britain Duxford now houses a great collection of historic aircraft over sixty of which are still airworthy, how wonderful to see a Spitfire still flying after so many years
not only a museum Duxford is also a work in progress, you can actually watch the restoration work being done, very fascinating for the technically minded [there are plenty of places to sit while husbands stand transfixed watching this]
a new hall is under construction to be called Airspace, which will chart the history of British aviation, several of the planes here will be suspended from the roof as if in flight
my favourite airplane here is the Concorde, regretfully I never did get the chance to fly on her while she was still in service, but here at least I could go on board and dream, Duxford`s Concorde was one of the early test planes, and the instruments inside are very interesting. my favourite hall was the Land Warfare Hall, which I found so special and interesting that I thought it deserved a tip all to itself
have a `flight` in the on-site simulator to give you a taste of flying in the Battle of Britain [costs £3.50] or you can take a flight around Duxford in a restored classic plane [from £32.00]
its a large site with lots to see, there is a land train you can take from hanger to hanger, though its not too far to walk comfortably. there is full access for disabled visitors and a limited number of wheelchairs available
there is a coffee shop and restaurant on the site, no haute cuisine [mostly something and chips] and prices are reasonable
admission costs £12 for adults, children under 16 are free, there are reductions for seniors and students [ID may be needed] and people in reciept of certain benefits get in free
Duxford is open from 10am to 6pm [summer] or 4pm [winter]
this was the highlight of my visit to Duxford, this hall has the most interesting displays, as you walk in they are all below you and viewing them from the walkway is like looking down on a town in the midst of a pitched WWII battle
the hall itself covers an area of 7,000 square metres and every possible space has been filled with tanks, military vehicles, and superbly staged tableaux, just because you abhor warfare doesnt mean that you wont find this hall interesting and educational
dont forget to check out the `Forgotten War` display with scenes from Britains WWII Far East campaigns, or the Regimental Museum of the Royal Anglian Regiment
children [and big kids] can feel the weight of the kit and guns the army carried into war - we were all suprised how heavy hand grenades actually are - a word of caution, the dim lighting and tableaux may be a little scarey for tiny children
my favourite thing here was finding a display about my sons regiment current deployment in Iraq, and seeing a picture of him on it enjoying his birthday party, neither we or he knew it would be there, and it made me feel proud to be his mother
while this is a great place to visit if you are a fan of all things military, if like me you hate war and all the suffering it brings its still good to visit and know that perhaps our children and our our childrens children may see it and realise that its not the answer
Duxford air museum, just south of Cambridge takes a full day to see it's complete collection.
Although part of the Imperial War museum it charges for entry (10 pounds for adults) and even more on air-show days.
When however you consider the range of hardware on view it's easy to justify. If you have boys of any age (I'm trying not to be sexist about this), then they will be transfixed.
On flying days inparticular, the place comes to life : that sense of tingling inside when something as aeronautically perfect as a Spitfire roars and swoops overhead - it's something special.
Of particular note is the American Air museum hanger which even includes a B-17 as if in full flight.
The museum also has examples of civilian aircraft, including Concorde.
This is the largest collection of flying, vintage military aircraft in Europe. This has been an active air base since World War I. The base played a key role in the Battle of Britain in 1940, after the fall of France. Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany and Italy. The Royal Air Force thwarted Hitler's plans to invade the island. Parts of the movie Battle of Britain were filmed here.
Today, this museum has an impressive collection of aircraft, many in flying condition, tanks, guns, missiles, radars, and an array of other military memorabilia. The new American Air Museum is dedicated to the US Air Force and Army Air Corps. This is a must-see for any history or aviation buff.
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum has air shows several times a year. Check the web site for dates and times.