2009 Articles

DEC 29 2009
Midland Air Museum

It'd been almost two and a half years since my last visit to this friendly museum, and I don't know what it is about the place but in all three of my previous visits the largely clear skies have always given way to rain, and this occasion was to prove no different…

Armed with this prior knowledge I made sure I didn't waste the sun that was present for our arrival and headed straight out to the aircraft on external display.

Right outside the door was one of the more interesting aircraft in the collection, a former Russian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind-D that had been purchased by BAE Systems for use in an upgrade programme that they were involved with, and it still wears the company's titles today.

Immediately opposite me was the 'tooled up' ex-Royal Danish Air Force F-104G Starfighter, looking absolutely immaculate in its olive drab colour scheme. To the '104's right was a new, at least to me, addition to the collection; an F-86A Sabre that had been sitting outside and suffering at Duxford the last time our paths had crossed. It has to be said that it's looking an awful lot healthier in its new surroundings.

Another aircraft sporting a fresh coat of paint lay alongside. F-4C, 63-7699, is a genuine 'killer', having shot down a MiG-17 during the Vietnam War in 1967. The markings it now wears are representative of those carried at the time that aerial success was gained - those of the 480th TFS, 366th TFW "Gunfighters".

It's probably fair to say that 'Classic Jets' make up the bulk of the aircraft on display, and nothing had changed within the group comprising Canberra PR.3 (still with the nose and canopy covered), the Patrouille de France schemed Mystere IVA, the 11 Sqn marked Lightning F.6, the authentic Royal Saudi Air Force painted T.55 example of the same type, the F-100D Super Sabre or the Sea Harrier FA.2.

The F-101B Voodoo, however, is undergoing a repaint and currently carries no markings at all, while the ex-French Air Force T-33 that was sporting a light blue scheme on my last visit was now wearing "Red Knight" colours once made famous by the type's Royal Canadian Air Force display appearances at airshows in the late '50s and '60s.

The acquisition of F-BGNR, "Victoria Lynne", an ex-Air France Vickers Viscount, had passed me by, but there she lay in her wingless state on the grass, just aft of the Voodoo. Since her September 2007 arrival the aircraft's been repainted into Air Inter colours and is looking amazing. According to the website charting her restoration (admittedly last updated in May of 2008) her owners have every intention of undertaking a full reassembly, and, long-term, even have desires for her to ground run. I'll be honest though, I'm not sure where on the museum's site she'd fit to enable that to occur…

Rather annoyingly I managed to miss going into the small hangar at the eastern end of the site. While I'd photographed the MiG-21 that now resides in there several times when it was outside, the same could not be said of the HH-43B Huskie that it's sharing the floor-space with. In fact, I didn't even know the collection owned one (according to their website it's been in their possession since 1981!)...

The area around the storage yard was considerably clearer than on my previous visit, and the collection's other F-4C, 63-7414, looked in slightly better condition than I was expecting - at least in relative terms. She's officially listed as being nothing more than a spares source, but the distinctive rainbow coloured rudder remains from her time spent with the 136th FIS, NY ANG. I'm sure she would look magnificent if ever restored for display in her own right.

Hiding behind the Lightnings and early Century-series relics were the Dove, Prentice and Beaver. The Museum's Dove was owned by an Indian Maharaja who used it as his personal transport aircraft. Today the scheme it sports is more relevant to its current surroundings than its own history. G-ALVD, which it carries, was the registration worn by another example of the type, owned by Dunlop, and one that actually used to operate from Baginton. The Beaver's a former-US Army example that saw service patrolling the Berlin Wall before its fall.

As is the norm here, at least for me, the cloud had now started to roll in and there was a touch of moisture in the air…

Down at the western end of the site is where the majority of the Museum's British-engineered hardware is to be found. Both the Sea Hawk FGA.6 and the Argosy 650 were built on the airfield at Baginton by the then Armstrong-Whitworth, before they ultimately fell under the Hawker Siddeley banner. The latter - which was open to the public - provided welcome shelter as a squall blew through.

Like the Sea Hawk, other naval aircraft on display include the Gannet T.2 and the ever-imposing Sea Vixen FAW.2. The RAF is represented by the immaculately kept Hunter F.6, XF382 - the custodian of which, Pete Buckingham, will be a familiar name to many for his involvement with many of the events at Kemble/Cotswold Airport. Javelin T.5, XA699, is the sole extant example of that variant to remain today, while Vulcan B.2, XL360, saw service during the Falklands Conflict and Meteor NF.14, WS838, still looks particularly smart in her 64 Sqn markings.

The bright yellow Boulton Paul BP.111A was built in nearby Wolverhampton and was used to test the characteristics of the delta wing design at transonic speeds in the 1950s. While the scale is very different, I do think you can see some elements of the design in the Lightnings.

Resting on a combination of bricks and metal supports is the second prototype and oldest surviving example of the HS.125. The reason it's propped up is so that it can perform undercarriage and flap retraction/extension demonstrations - something which still regularly happens today.

Of the internal exhibits, certainly so far as aircraft on display goes, almost nothing had changed since I made my first visit in 2004. The Meteor F.4, EE531, on display is another aircraft built here at Baginton, and it's also the oldest remaining production example left in the world. Of similar rarity at the other end of the hangar is Vampire F.1, VF301 - one of only two F.1s surviving and the only one in the UK.

A second T-33 can be found displayed inside. Another ex-French aircraft, this one's painted in the colours of USAFE's 57th FIS from Keflavik AFB, Iceland, while further foreign presence comes in the shape of a Saab J-29F Tunnan, affectionately known as the "Flying Barrel".

One of the newest additions to the collection is also one of the most bizarre looking. The Chichester-Miles Consultants Leopard is a four-seat, twin engined, personal jet that first flew in 1988. The Museum's example, G-BRNM, got airborne for the first time in 1997 and amassed 84 flights before its withdrawal. The plan, apparently, was to turn the Leopard concept into a six-seat aircraft, but as yet this has failed to happen.

The remaining aircraft exhibits are largely cockpit sections or replicas, but the information displays, particularly those upstairs detailing "The Story of the Jet" and "Wings over Coventry", are well worth a look.

Since my last visit the former-Danish Air Force Hunter has departed to Carlisle, and the Finnish-marked Gnat was also conspicuous by its absence (or at least I didn't see it).

GAR wants to interact with its readers so if you have a question for the author or a comment to make on this feature, please click on the button below. The best comments will appear right here on GAR.

Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /var/sites/g/globalaviationresource.com/public_html/comments/displaycomments.php on line 8

2009-12-29 - Mark Ray
Just to set the record straight the Viscount is owned by the Midland Air Museum. The original owner agreed a sale to the Museum after it arrived on site, taking the ex-RDAF Hunter (now at Carlisle) as part of this agreement.

The work that has been done since then - including the repaint has been achieve whilst under the Museum's ownership. There is little likelihood of the aircraft ever engine running again as the condition of the RR Darts is at best 'unknown'.

Global Aviation Resource's photographic and written work is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without express written permission.

If you would like to discuss using any of our imagery or feature content please contact us.