The National Museum of Flight is Scotland's national aviation museum at East Fortune Airfield, just south of the village of East Fortune, in East Lothian. It is one of the museums within National Museums Scotland. The museum is housed in the original wartime buildings of RAF East Fortune which is one of the best preserved wartime airfields in the UK.
The collections date back to 1909 when the Royal Scottish Museum acquired Percy Pilcher's Hawk glider. This was the first aircraft collected by any museum in the UK. The same year the museum acquired models of the Wright Model A and Blériot XI. During the early 1920s several aero engines were added to the collection, including a 1910 33 hp Wright engine donated by Orville Wright. In 1968 a Slingsby Gull sailplane was acquired. In 1971 the museum was given a Supermarine Spitfire XVI by the Ministry of Defence. This could not be displayed in Edinburgh and was stored in a hangar at East Fortune. The following year a Hawker Sea Hawk, de Havilland Sea Vampire and de Havilland Sea Venom were received from RNAS Lossiemouth. The growth in the aircraft collection led to the decision to open a Museum of Flight at East Fortune, with the public admitted for the first time on 7 July 1975. The displays included several aircraft on loan, including de Havilland Dragon Rapide (G-ADAH), BA Swallow (G-AEVZ) and Fairey Delta 2 WG774. In 1979 a temporary exhibition about the R34 airship was mounted, followed by Fighters of the RFC and RAF, 1914 to 1940 the following year. The 1981 temporary exhibition was The Flight of Rudolf Hess 1941.
The museum expanded significantly in 1981 as a result of the sale by auction of much of the Strathallan Collection of aircraft. The museum purchased five aircraft (Bristol Fairchild Bolingbroke, de Havilland Dragon, de Havilland Puss Moth, General Aircraft Cygnet and Percival Provost). Of these, the Cygnet and Provost were the first aircraft to make their final flights to join the museum. That same year, the de Havilland Comet also flew in to the museum, as did the Avro Vulcan in 1984. Another significant expansion took place with the donation of much of the British Airways Collection of aircraft in 2006. This collection was previously displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford. The museum acquired the BAC 1-11, Vickers Viscount, Boeing 707 forward fuselage and Hawker Siddeley Trident cockpit. Visitors are able to walk through the 1-11 and 707 and look into the flight deck of the Trident. This is in addition to walking through the de Havilland Comet and Jetstream 31 fuselage which were already in the museum collections. The museum collections have expanded into one of the most important in the UK, covering all aspects of aviation including military, civil and recreational. The museum is significant in that it is the only UK national museum still collecting the history of commercial aviation. This resulted in the museum putting their Boeing 707 fuselage section on display from April 2010, with a collection of BOAC crew and passenger artefacts, including a 1960s stewardess uniform.
Hangar 1: Military Aviation. Aircraft on display include the Spitfire, Meteor, Tornado and Jaguar. Other objects on display include one of the Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines from the Messerschmitt Bf 110 flown to Scotland by Rudolf Hess, a Bristol Hercules engine, a Bristol Pegasus engine displayed alongside a Harrier jump jet, a Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet displayed next to a Lightning, a jeep, several Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannons, Martin-Baker ejection seats, air-to-air missiles including the AIM-7 Sparrow, and a reconstruction of a 1950s shop with displays of model kits manufactured by Airfix, Frog, Matchbox, Revell and others. Also on display is the nose undercarriage leg of the Bristol Brabazon airliner. Hangar 2: Civil Aviation. Aircraft on display include many built by Scottish Aviation at Prestwick, including the Twin Pioneer and Jetstream 31. Other objects on display include various engines such as the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah and de Havilland Gipsy, and a Jetstream fuselage open for visitors to walk through.
Hangar 3: Storage and Restoration. This is the storage hangar, so aircraft here are not fully interpreted but those on display include a Beaufighter and Bolingbroke, both under restoration, as well as a Viscount and Tiger Moth. Other exhibits include a Blue Streak IRBM; and a Polaris SLBM. Hangar 4: Concorde. This is the main display hangar and contains "The Concorde Experience" and "The Jet Age" exhibitions. "The Concorde Experience" includes a walk-through and around the aircraft (with an accompanying audio guide available), an audio-visual presentation about the history of G-BOAA, and an exhibition about the history of Concorde with prototype and production Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 engines, aircraft seats and numerous small objects. "The Jet Age" includes a stack of engines, showing the development of the jet engine and how this drove the growth of commercial aviation. The engines displayed here are a de Havilland Ghost turbojet, a Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet, a Rolls-Royce Conway turbofan, a Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan, a Rolls-Royce RB211 turbofan and a General Electric CF6 turbofan. Additional permanent exhibitions were opened in recent years in other wartime buildings on the site, with a hands-on interactive gallery about flight called "Fantastic Flight" and another dealing with the history of the site called "Fortunes of War". There is also a restored parachute packing building, called "The Parachute Store". Other buildings house various exhibits including a Green Goddess, and an AEC Matador used by the RAF in Malta.
Civil Aircraft. de Havilland Puss Moth : The Puss Moth was a three-seat light aircraft built between 1929 and 1933. The wings could be folded for storage and it was claimed that the aircraft could fit into a domestic garage. Weir W-2 : The Weir W-2 is an autogyro. It is similar to a helicopter, but the rotor on top is not powered by the engine. Spartan Cruiser forward fuselage : The Spartan Cruiser I was developed in 1932 from the Saro-Percival Mailplane, which carried airmail. Miles M.18 : The M.18 was a light civil aircraft. Only four were ever built, between 1938 and 1942. General Aircraft Cygnet : The Cygnet was the first light aircraft made in Britain with all-metal construction. Only 11 were built, between 1936 and 1941. de Havilland Dragon : The Dragon operated many air routes within Scotland during the 1930s. Most of the airlines in Scotland at that time flew Dragons. Avro Anson : The Anson entered service in 1935. It was used by the Royal Air Force at the start of the Second World War for anti-submarine patrols. Slingsby T.38 Grasshopper : The Grasshopper was a basic training glider used by the Air Training Corps in Britain between 1952 and the late 1980s. de Havilland Dove : The Dove was a short-haul airliner which entered airline service in 1946. It was one of Britain’s most successful airliners with more than 500 built between 1946 and 1967. It was exported all over the world. Beech E-18S : This E-18S is a passenger airliner, built in Wichita, Kansas, in 1955. It was converted to a nine-seat layout in 1968 for the Scottish airline, Loganair.
Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer : The Twin Pioneer was built by Scottish Aviation at Prestwick in Ayrshire between 1955 and 1962. Schleicher Ka-4 Rhönlerche : The Rhönlerche was designed as a cheap and simple two-seat training glider. It was widely used at gliding clubs throughout Europe from 1955 onwards. Druine Turbulent : The Turbulent was designed by Frenchman Roger Druine in the 1950s as a homebuild microlight aircraft. Britten-Norman Islander : The Islander has connected island communities in Scotland since entering service in 1967. Scot-Kites Cirrus III : The Cirrus III hang glider was originally developed by the Electra Flyer Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the USA in 1975. Firebird Sierra 2 : The Sierra hang glider, developed in 1983, has an innovative wing design. Airwave Magic Kiss : The Magic Kiss hang glider was first produced in 1989 and quickly became a standard hang gliding club aircraft. Montgomerie-Parsons : The Montgomerie-Parsons is an autogyro. It is similar to a helicopter, but the rotor on top is not powered by the engine. Ikarus C42 : The C42 is a microlight, an aeroplane with a maximum take-off weight of 450 kg (992 lb).
Military Aircraft. Bristol Bolingbroke : The Bolingbroke was the name given to the Bristol Blenheim light bomber built under licence in Canada. The Blenheim was developed in 1936 from a high speed transport aircraft built for Lord Rothermere, owner of several newspapers. Supermarine Spitfire : The Spitfire is the most famous of all British combat aircraft. It played a vital role in the Battle of Britain in 1940. More than 20,000 were built between 1936 and 1948. Messerschmitt Komet : The rocket-powered Komet was the fastest aircraft of the Second World War. English Electric Canberra : The Canberra was the first Royal Air Force bomber powered by jet engines. Armstrong Whitworth Meteor : The Meteor was the Royal Air Force’s first jet fighter. It entered service in 1944. Hawker Sea Hawk : The Sea Hawk was a single-seat jet fighter which entered service with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in 1953. Like most naval aircraft, it had folding wings to save space on an aircraft carrier. de Havilland Sea Venom : The Sea Venom was the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm’s first all-weather jet fighter. It entered service in March 1954. Aero S-103 : Between 1954 and 1958, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech and Slovak Republics) used the S-103 as its main jet fighter. This aircraft was the Soviet MiG-15bis, built under licence by the Aero Vodochody aircraft company.
English Electric Lightning : The Lightning was the first supersonic jet fighter in the Royal Air Force. It entered service in 1960. It could fly at twice the speed of sound (Mach 2) but it used so much fuel that its range was limited. Hawker Siddeley Harrier : Known as the ‘jump jet’, the Harrier was the world’s first vertical take-off combat aircraft to enter operational service. The Royal Air Force began to use Harriers in 1969. SEPECAT Jaguar : The Jaguar was a tactical strike and reconnaissance fighter which could carry nuclear weapons. It was in Royal Air Force service between 1974 and 2007. Panavia Tornado : The Tornado was the Royal Air Force’s only variable geometry (swing wing) aircraft.
Disabled visitors pay a concession price for admission, with a carer accompanying for free. There is ample car parking at no charge, with spaces for disabled visitors next to the main hangar. There may be a change of disabled parking location and a parking fee at certain special events held at National Museum of Flight. The site is wheelchair accessible and wheelchairs can be borrowed free of charge. Their land train, the Airfield Explorer, provides accessible transport between the hangars. The hangars have ramped access, however, due to the historic nature of their collection some of the aircraft, including Concorde, are not accessible to everyone. Adapted toilets are available. Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are admitted. No prior permission is needed for photography intended for personal use. However, anyone wishing to use a tripod should contact the information desk to obtain a photopass.
Location : National Museum of Flight, East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian EH39 5LF
Transport: Drem (National Rail) then bus (121). Bus Routes : 121 stops in the grounds.
Opening Times : November through 7 th April, Weekends 10:00 to 18:00; April to October, Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £12.00; Concessions £10.00; Children (5 - 15) £7.00
Tel : 0300 123 6789