Ike visits the Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Jane took Ike to the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune in East Lothian, Scotland.

One of the main exhibits in the museum is Concorde. The Museum’s aircraft, registration code G-
BOAG, is also referred to as Alpha Golf. It was first flown in April of 1978 and was delivered to the British
Airways in 1980. It was the eighth British-built production Concorde. Equipped with four powerful Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk. 610 turbojet engines, AlphaGolf logged more than 5,600 take-offs and over 16,200 flight hours while in service. It flew the last British Airways commercial Concorde flight, from New York to London, on October 24, 2003. It was retired from service on November 5, 2003.

Ike and Jane were surprised by how large Concorde is, taking up most of the hangar. There was
also a Lego model which Ike and Jane were very impressed with.

As they were first into the museum there was nobody queuing to have a look inside Concorde, so Ike
and Jane decided to go there first.

Once inside, they first went to have a look at the cockpit.

It all looked very complicated with all the dials and switches. They then walked down the aisle and Ike and Jane were surprised by how small the windows were. They later found out it was in case one of the windows broke in mid-air and the small area could mitigate the impact.

Ike decided to sit on one of the seats to test it for comfort. He found it to his liking.

They also caught a glimpse of the First-Class compartment which was separated from the standard
class compartment by a Perspex window. It did look a more comfortable way to travel with the cushions and refreshments which were laid on for the passengers.

After leaving the interior of Concorde, Ike and Jane went to have a closer look at the exterior. They
looked at the empty engine area of the aircraft. Two of the engines would be housed here.

The under-side of Concorde
A tyre from Concorde

The engine above is a Rolls Royce Olympus engine. Ike looked so small sitting on it. This was one of the engines which was used in the Concorde.

Other Aircraft

There were some other aircraft in the hangar including the cockpit and forward fuselage of the last Boeing 707 – 436 in Britain. There was also a small RAF training aircraft called the Hawk which was used to train fast jet pilots. This was the jet used by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, called the Red Arrows, from 1985 until 2012.

After looking at some other engines on display they went outside to look at the other aircraft and buildings that remain from the Second World War.

World War Air Bases

During the First World War, an air station was built in the area to be used as an airship station, which explains the large hangars which were built to house them. In June 1940, the site was requisitioned by the Air Ministry as a satellite field for nearby RAF Drem.

Throughout the Second World War, the Royal Air Force Station, East Fortune, served as an operational training base.

The first crews to pass through were of Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and Polish origin. Accidents were frequent, often fatal, and the surrounding countryside became littered with aeroplane crash sites.

After the Second World War, the East Fortune Airfield ceased to be used by the RAF. The runway was extended across the B1347 to take American bombers during the Cold War but was never used for this purpose.

The Grounds of the Museum

Ike and Jane then left the hangar and took a walk around the grounds. There were the buildings remaining from the time it was a functional airbase and also some aircraft. Jane said it was possible to go into the aircraft the last time she visited but access was now restricted due to Covid 19. Nevertheless, they managed to get a close-up look at many of the aircraft.

Blast Shelters

As Ike and Jane walked around the various buildings they noticed some Blast Shelters. These were a place where ground staff could find shelter in the event of an aerial bomb attack to protect themselves from blasts and explosions. There were a number of them dotted around the grounds but they had been filled in for safety.

There were some other buildings on the grounds which had been used for various purposes during
the War.

Buildings for officers

As they walked around the grounds they saw a sign on a building saying ‘Parachute Store’ and so they went to have a look.

An audio recording was playing reminding the workers that they had to concentrate on making sure the parachutes were folded correctly, as the lives of airmen depended on it. An information board gave some information regarding the store and said it had to be kept free of moisture. Heaters were used to keep the room dry in the winter.

Ike and Jane walked to the ‘top’ of the airbase to get a closer look at two aircraft which were locatedthere. One was a De Havilland Comet passenger jet and the other was a Vulcan Bomber. The Comet came into service in 1952 and was the world’s first jet airliner. The only time the Vulcans were used was in 1982, during the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina.

Other Hangars

There were some other hangars containing aircraft and other items in glass display cabinets relating to flight which Ike and Jane went to visit. They saw a small aeroplane (Sea Hawk) with folding wings which allowed for easy storage on aircraft carriers. Ike liked the tiger image on its side. Jane explained that these were called Nose Art and gave the aircraft a personality. The images were also morale-boosting, good luck charms and usually had a meaning to the aircrew.

He also saw a Sepecat Jaguar with the image of a woman on it. This was an Anglo-French attack aircraft that was in service between 1973 and 2014. It is still in service with the Indian Air Force.

The Canberra – Transatlantic record Holder

Canberra was the first jet bomber used by the RAF and came into service in 1951. It was also used during the Falklands War in 1982. The nose section of this aircraft was the only part of the aircraft on display. It was part of the aircraft which set a transatlantic record in 1952 when flying from Northern Ireland to Canada and back in 10 hours 3 minutes and 29.28 seconds.

German Aircraft

On display was a German Messerschmitt Komet bomber and the remains of a Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine from Rudolf Hess’s Aircraft which crashed in a field after running out of fuel in Eaglesham, near Strathaven, South Lanarkshire in 1941.

Hess was Deputy Fuhrer of Germany and was looking for Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, the 14th Duke ofHamilton, who lived at Dungavel, near Strathaven to help broker a deal with Germany to stop the Second World War. He was arrested and held in custody until the end of the war. He was then returned to Germany to stand trial at the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to life imprisonment at Spandau Prison in West Berlin. He died in 1987.

The Messerschmitt Komet was powered by a Walter HWK 109-509 rocket and was the faster aircraft in the Second World War.

Ike and Jane learned that the Messerschmitt Komet was built by prisoners in the Concentration Camps.

There were some civilian aircraft in another hangar including a Druine Turbulent, which was built by John Sharpe in his house in Airdrie in North Lanarkshire. The wing was built across a hallway and extended into two bedrooms on either side. The family had to crawl under the wing to move about the house!

The final assembly was carried out in a school playground in 1974. Ike and Jane were very impressed.

They spent some time looking at the other different types of civilian aircraft. They were surprised at how important aircraft can be in civilian life including for the transportation of goods, for medical purposes, including transportation of patients and human organs and providing humanitarian aid to disaster areas.

Civilian aircraft

Air ambulance

Ike and Jane had spent four hours at the museum and had a very interesting and enjoyable time. As it was early afternoon, they decided to cycle over to the nearby village of Athelstaneford to visit the National Flag Heritage Centre, which tells the story of the origin of the Scottish flag, the Saltire. Come back soon to find out more.