So you always wanted to fly Concorde?
around airports and museums elsewhere in Britain, France, the US, Germany and even Barbados. They were retired from duty, largely, because of the crash of the Air France Concorde in Paris in July 2000 and the rising cost of maintenance.
The museum, currently housed in two buildings, but with more planned, takes up a huge area on the former Filton airfield site. The bulk of the exhibits are housed a short walk away from the Concorde building in an imaginatively restored 100-year-old hangar. The idea is that you visit the main exhibition first, then head off to see the star of the show.
While the aim of Bristol Aerospace is to showcase the remarkable role played by the site in Britain’s aviation history, it also sets out, according to the museum’s collections manager, Linda Coode, to inspire the next generation to get interested in science and engineering.
It succeeds brilliantly, with numerous exhibits – such as flight simulators (a Concorde training cockpit and an Airbus A320) and interactive options (a wind tunnel where you can play with a model aircraft) broadening its appeal. There’s a great shop, too, selling everything from Airfix kits to posters and toys.
Taking a timeline approach, the museum uses refurbished, restored and replica planes and engines, together with models and intriguing exhibits (such as the keys used to arm a nuclear bomb), to tell Bristol’s aviation story. And it is a remarkable one at that, beginning with the fledgling British & Colonial Aeroplane Company at Filton in 1910, the brainchild of canny entrepreneur Sir George White, who initially built trams, buses and cars before going on to develop numerous aircraft before his death in 1916.
Among the aircraft referenced are First World War bi-planes built here, such as the Bristol Scout, between-thewars commercial and racing planes (the Bristol Racer) and Second World War planes (Bristol Beaufighter and Bristol Blenheim). Elsewhere, there’s a Sea Harrier Jump Jet, helicopters (such as the Bristol Type 171 Sycamore), guided weapons systems, rockets, drones, a prototype car that could double up as a helicopter, and aspects of satellite technology. Panels on the wall ask visitors to ponder the morality of drones and guided weapons.
The high point, however, remains Concorde. With its pointed nose and sleek frame, it looks as futuristic as ever and, like the Spitfire, has an enduring appeal. Walking inside the plane with its plush leather seats, it does appear relatively cramped – but then Concorde flights weren’t lengthy affairs, taking only 3.5 hours on average between London and New York. (On one occasion, it made the trip in a record two hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds, travelling at an average speed of 1,250mph.)
Projections on to the plane explain Concorde’s history, together with anecdotes from those associated with the aircraft (from pilots and engineers, who scribbled their messages near the flight deck, to celebrity passengers), and there is a re-creation and explanation of the famous and noisy sonic boom.
Informative, questioning and fun, so far Bristol Aerospace appears to be the model of a 21st-century museum and gives the city a lot to shout about.
Aerospace Bristol (0117 931 5315; aerospacebristol.org). Open daily, admission: £15 adults/£8 children. For more travel news, see telegraph. co.uk/tt-travelnews
Concorde fans can try a flight simulator of the iconic aeroplane