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IWM Duxford

Interior of the American aircraft hangar at duxford
The vast space of the American hangar at Duxford

IWM Duxford is the southern airfield based museum, one of the five separate Museums of the Imperial War Museum group. Located at the Cambridgeshire airfield that was an RFC airdrome in 1917, it then passed on to the RAF up to and into WW2 and in 1943 was used by the USAF for operations into Europe.

After the war the prospect of disposal came up in 1961 as there was much less need to expensive full time airfields. A deal was struck and the Imperial War Museum and Cambridgeshire council now co-own it as a charity.

Its main objectives are to educate the public, and collect and display historic aircraft. Both of these are done in admirable fashion! Having visited aviation museums since my childhood it's immensely pleasing to hear younger children with their parents declaring which and why various aircraft are their "favourites".

The American museum at Duxford
The American museum space, designed by Norman Foster

Duxford has some astonishingly historic aircraft too. The fastest officially recorded Concorde resides there, Concorde 101. Crossing the Atlantic in just 2 hours and 52 minutes. A feat never achieved since by any passenger carrying aircraft.

Aircraft in hangar one
Number 1 hangar, with a Lancaster in the foredground, Concorde to the left and Mosquito above.

Amongst many historic fast aircraft is also a Lockheed SR-71 which achieved a height record of 85,069 feet and it the only SR-71 on display anywhere outside of America!

The museum also houses a significant number of flying condition historic aircraft, and many of them are carefully prepared and flown in displays that occur throughout the year. It is also possible at Duxford to book personal flights in a number of aircraft and even take some flying lessons. Duxford is also one of just two locations in the UK where you can for a price book a pleasure flight in a genuine Spitfire! It's not cheap but will be an unrivalled experience almost anywhere in the world.

Along with the flying, Duxford also houses a large restoration workshop where many important aircraft have been, and are in the process of being restored. Some to full flying condition, and some to display condition. That's a slow and very skilled process of course, and takes time, many years in some cases.

Heinkel HE162 under retsoration
This particular version of an Heinkel HE-162 is the only one existing. Currently under careful restoration.

Historic objects are also preserved and displayed, such as Manfred Von Richthofen's engine from his red Fokker Triplane.

Von Richtofen's engine.
Manfred Von Richtofen's(The red Baron) Fokker Triplane engine! The real thing!

6 hangars as part of a total of 8 display buildings, house a wide variety of objects. Whilst the emphasis is aviation there are also displays of land warfare and operations rooms.

Bus use in WW1
A London Bus that was used during the first world war in northern France.

One of the jewels in the crown at Duxford is the American museum. Designed by Norman Foster and Arup partners. This incredible piece of architecture was designed to house several huge aircraft and is constructed with a cast concrete roof. Visually it's quite jaw-dropping, appearing to be perhaps an eye of massive proportions gently peering across the landscape.

Tribute to American WW2 pilots
Moving tribute to lost American air force pilots of WW2

Food and drink is catered for in two locations, and both serve very decent food. Prices are commensurate with modern venues i.e. not particularly cheap, but the food is good and will not leave you feeling short changed. There is, of course, a gift shop but it's a very good one! There are many items ranging from literature to clothing, and food and drink to take or give as gifts, plus toys for the children.

Disabled access and toilet facilities are excellent. The hangars and displays are fairly widely spaced and there is a reasonable amount of walking to be done between them. At no time though do you feel too far from the facilities.

Crash landed ME109
A Messerschmidt ME109 that got lost and landed on a UK beach by mistake!

As befits a working airfield, Duxford is not located in town, but road access is very good. Located just next to junction 10 of the M11, access is easy from anywhere on the motorway network and parking is ample and free. The nearby rail station of Whittlesford has a bus service to the museum, and Taxi ranks are available at Royston and Cambridge rail stations. Or if you really want to you can fly in! Not many of us can of course, but it's an active field and with prior permission you can book a landing there. Full details of fees etc. are on the website if you fancy that! Aside from the entry fees, another option is to become a member or supporter on a yearly basis. If you think you may visit more than one or two of the venues over the course of a year it offers excellent value. Beyond that you know that your money will continue to support and help the museums in making these historic aircraft, ships and venues available to all.



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