So you al­ways wanted to fly Con­corde?

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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; aerospace­bris­ Open daily, ad­mis­sion: £15 adults/£8 chil­dren. For more travel news, see tele­graph.­el­news

Con­corde fans can try a flight sim­u­la­tor of the iconic aero­plane

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