Friday, 6 August 2010

museum of flight - east fortune

Theo is an air cadet and all things RAF/world wars have fascinated my family for years. On Tuesday we set off for the Museum of Flight which is based at East Fortune, an airfield used as a base for both 1st and 2nd world wars. It now houses aircraft from civilian use and the forces.

The main attraction is to see Concorde - East Fortune is lucky to have Alpha Alpha - the Concorde that unfortunately missed out on Sir Terence Conran's refit as it retired in 2001. However, this doesn't take away from how breathtaking she is.

I had never really understood the whole Concorde thing beyond that it was for rich and famous folk and engineers to get excited over. But seeing her in the hangar was quite spectacular - the famour nose, the exhibition stories and seeing inside the cockpit. The cockpit is astonishing and no wonder pilots required 10 years commercial experience plus a six month conversion course.

ohmygod - look at all those buttons!

We could so fly this...

What was clear is how much pride the crew - ground and cabin - took in their work. I was particularly touched by the story of the woman who started off as a hairdresser, retrained as a pilot and pursued her dream of being a Concorde pilot.

We also got to test our own possible piloting prowess - or lack thereof - in the Flight School. As predicted, Theo and I did not do that well at the colour test - and having seen the cockpits of a variety of planes by this point I can see why being able to tell what colour of light is flashing would be rather important. But it seems our other sight capabilities and hearing would be fine.

Checking out our peripheral vision

Hearing test...

We also got to see a Komet - the German plane that could fly high and at speed but once it had reached its target had about seven minutes of fuel left. The journey back was glider fashion so eth pilot had to have skills as a pilot and glider.

We saw MIGS and Harrier jets and seeing them up close there was little room really for the pilots and you got to see teh wear and tear daily use rendered on the cockpit. We also saw a Vulcan, the plane used to carry Britain's nuclear deterent - a cold, timely reminder of what job these engineering marvels were often designed for.

The BOAC exhibition was also very interesting, taking you back to when overseas flights were a luxury and an adventure. People would turn up for their flight as if dressed for a posh evening occasion and the cabin crews would serve three course meals that could rival a good hotel on the ground. Changed days.

East Fortune played a big part on both World Wars and as always the stories are poignant and laced with the every day. The crew at East Fortune provided the escort for the Germany Navy surrendering their ships at the River Forth and they provided protection for the convoys of ships bringing supplies to troops and civilians alike. One letter in the exhibition is from a fiance who has lost her husband to be in the war and is writing to his mother - 'I keep remembering all the little things he said and did. I just loved everything about him' - reminding you that all of the photos of men and women in uniform have a human story behind them. Although to lighten the experience I did laugh at the quote that the difference between NAAFI tea and coffee was a penny!

After exhausting the exhibitions we had lunch outside despite the rather fierce wind - after all, Scottish summer weather won't stop us having a picnic. We then drove out to Gullane and took a walk along the shore before returning to Bridge of Allan for a fish tea at the Allanwater Cafe - a good end to our day!

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