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My review of the new Aerospace Bristol museum – Part 1

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I am in Cardiff today for an event to celebrate the launch of daily Qatar Airways flights from Cardiff to Doha.  (Yes, I know the first flight was yesterday.  Qatar Airways works to an odd schedule!)

Even the two frequent flyers I know who live in Cardiff admit that they never expected to see regular long-haul flights from the airport, yet alone a daily Boeing 787 service!

More on this in a day or so.  As I needed to be in Cardiff early it made sense to head down the day before.  This gave me a good excuse to visit the new Aerospace Bristol museum which opened last October, home to a Concorde amongst many other exhibits.

Click on any of the pictures to expand.

Aerospace Bristol

I am not, in any sense, an aviation ‘enthusiast’.  I genuinely cannot tell an A320 from a Boeing 737, let alone from an A319 or A321.  I have never wanted to be a pilot and never wanted to work for an airline.  As it turns out, that is not what Aerospace Bristol is about.

Aerospace Bristol

It is a long time since a complete aircraft was built in Bristol.  The final assembly for all of the UK Concorde aircraft took place here, along with some manufacturing – every UK Concorde took its first flight off the Filton runway.  The flight to Filton in 2003 to deliver the Concorde on display was the final ever flight.  Whilst Filton and the wider Bristol area is still a major aviation centre, the nature of the Airbus consortium means that only specific aircraft sections are now made here – wings, fuel systems and landing gear integration.

Aerospace Bristol is literally two museums in one.  A converted World War 1 hanger has been converted to tell the story of aviation in Bristol.  Concorde sits in a separate new-build hanger.  I have split this article into two parts for that reason.

Aerospace Bristol

Getting there

I took the train from Paddington to Bristol Parkway, from where it was a £7 taxi ride to the museum.  Adult entrance is £15 with the usual concessions.  On a Tuesday in May it was very quiet, with no more than 25 people at any point.

Uber is available in Filton so getting a car back to the station is not a problem.

The location is a little odd.  Filton is being redeveloped, with a new housing estate now opposite the museum on what was part of the airfield.  Around you is an odd mix of old and new structures.  There is no longer an active runway although an air ambulance operates from outside the museum.

Aerospace Bristol

Inside the museum

I’m not going to go into the full history of aviation in Bristol.  The village of Filton was originally the end of a tram line, and when the tram company decided to expand into aviation in 1910 it used an area where it had built bus and tram garages.  The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company was born.

The outbreak of World War 1 gave the company a massive boost, although it went into receivership afterwards when faced with the tax bill on its wartime profits!  A quiet period followed until the late 1930’s when the threat of a rearmed Germany surfaced.  There are German maps of the Filton site on show in the museum.

Aerospace Bristol

It is not a museum about aircraft.  There are not actually that many on show.  (It would have been good to have Airbus more directly involved as their site is next door.  They could have lent some excellent pieces given what is in their museum in Toulouse.  Even Concorde is only on loan from British Airways.)

It is about how two wars shaped UK industry, and about war itself.  The average lifespan of a fighter pilot in World War 1 once he started active service was 11 days.  6,000 pilots died on test and practice flights during World War 1 as the pilots got little training and the aircraft were not fully reliable.

Aerospace Bristol

(The picture above refers to an odd diversion into prefab house building at one point!)

It is also about how the UK aviation industry changed after World War 2.  What you don’t get, unfortunately, are lots of aircraft with furnished interiors.

I did like this comment about the Brabazon, a Government funded project from 1945 to develop a transatlantic airliner.  Designed and built at Filton, it first flew in 1949.

Aerospace Bristol

“In spite of its technical brilliance, the Brabazon was a commercial failure.  The market for expensive luxury travel was being replaced by smaller airliners with high density seating and lower fares”.

Aerospace Bristol

And that was the early 1950’s …..

More on Aerospace Bristol tomorrow, when we turn to this:

Aerospace Bristol

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Comments (31)

  • danksy says:

    This is about 20 minutes from where I live and i discovered the museum only yesterday as a family friend is visiting from Australia with an interest in aviation history and I wanted to take him somewhere locally that would keep his interest.

    Thanks Rob

  • Julian says:

    I saw that last Concorde flight coming in to land at Filton in November 2003 watching from the Clifton Suspension Bridge having also taken my first, last and only Concorde flight from JFK to LHR on October 16th 2003. My only regret is that I didn’t have the funds to be able to do the return trip out and back to JFK.

    Also I suspect like many of your readers I am an aviation enthusiast and often think I should have become a commercial airline pilot and also seem to have an unlimited capacity to be interested in watching programs such Air as Crash Investigation on National Geographic channel.

  • lou says:

    ….also had to go to australia to hear about the amazing fleet air arm museum in yeovil where there is yet another concorde on show … if ur near london go to see yet yet another concorde at brooklands in weybridge

  • Benylin says:

    OT: love this website, new to the game! Had two questions I would like your thoughts on.
    1) currently hold a PRGC (charge card). If I upgrade via the web link to Platinum, will it trigger a hard credit check?
    2) if my mum gets the BAPP or the BACC, and she earns the 2-4-1 voucher, can I use the voucher? (Say for me and my wife). I know I can pool her points into my BAEC.

    • Genghis says:

      2) The voucher holder must travel

    • Anna says:

      The voucher holder has to travel on the booking, you’ll have to take her with you!

    • simon says:

      2) But you can get the BAPP in your name or your wifes name. Then get your mum a supplementary card on the account…. so her spend will trigger the voucher on YOUR account. Then you can use the 241 yourself…..

    • wally1976 says:

      1) In my experience Yes although others have reported different I believe.

  • Phil says:

    @Rob,

    Perhaps this would be a bit ‘wet’ but I’d love to see a (semi) tongue-in-cheek article on what a H4P Credit Card would look like. What would be: the best perks to have available, the annual fee, points per £ etc. whle still making it economically viable?

  • wally1976 says:

    Just putting a word in for the Cosford air museum which is free and excellent!

  • Alex W says:

    For all the Av geeks I highly recommend the USS Intrepid in New York. An actual aircraft carrier, with SR-71, space shuttle and all sorts on the deck and in the hangar, including a gigantic Lego model of itself. And (yet another) Concorde alongside.

    What absolutely knocks the pants off it, though, is the museum of the USAF in Wright Patterson, Ohio. All the experimental X planes, B2, Valkyrie, Bock’s Car, about 5 Air Force One’s, the list goes on. What an experience.

  • Stephen Danson says:

    I think the first QTR service out of CWL was actually a A350. That’s got 2 engines Rob!!