Midland Air Museum is a gem. Situated next door to Coventry Airport it boasts numerous iconic aircraft from various corners of the world, a majority of which were built or developed in Coventry.
By far the star of the museum is the Vulcan, and I was given special permission by our fantastic guide to sit in the cockpit. – which as you would expect for a long haul Cold War bomber is full of dials. The cockpit is cramped, the view restricted, and there is no toilet.
Behind the cockpit is the navigation area that usually seats three more crew members. it also includes the bomb release button for your nuclear payload and the rinky dinky joystick for maneuvering said warhead to its intended target. The brown thing is a cushion for your forehead so you can stay still while looking at the screen and steering the nuke:
Underneath one of the flaps in the navigators desk I found a map; perhaps including various targets:
There was no red cross on the map anywhere, but it certainly told a story in itself. It was quite a chilling experience to be sitting there in the blacked out cockpit and talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis and The Falklands (where the aircraft last saw action).
I had the pleasure of going to the museum with an ex-RAF ‘Chief’ (and his son) who worked on V-bombers and Phantoms. It was great to hear him swapping stories with our guide who started work for the RAF servicing Mosquitos. He was a brilliant guide and let us into areas that I think would be normally off-limits if it hadn’t been for the presence of ‘the chief’.
For instance there was a Mig 21 in the workshop:
The Mig was being restored. here’s the back-end, showing the after-burner:
The guide also showed us a very early German helicopter they were restoring which was unique and dated back to WWII. It was a sorry state and so avoided my eye-candy induced twitchy camera shutter finger. In even worse state was the stuff stored around the back of the workshop, unfortunately at the mercy of the elements and the weeds:
A Sea King cockpit I’m guessing, and also a cockpit reminiscent of Suede’s ‘Sci-fi Lullabies’ cover:
Back in the more public areas is a great collection of lovingly restored aircraft packed into a small space. Here’s a McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II 63-7699 which is unique in that it bears a red star “kill” marking having shot down a MiG-17 in Vietnam:
Here’s on of a number of Lightnings they have on show; a really iconic aircraft:
A BAE Systems Sea Harrier FA.2 ZE694:
I prefer the ‘proper’ Harrier over the Sea version; this model’s a bit of an ugly duckling.
The aircraft pictured below was being restored while we were there. I think it’s a Buccaneer.
We were allowed into the cockpit of the Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy 650 G-APRL. A big transporter reminiscent of Air America:
Here’s the carefully sanded nose of a Gloster Meteor NF.14 WS838 waiting for a paint job:
We also got to sit inside the cockpit of the Mil Mi-24 ‘Hind-D’ ‘Red 06’ helicopter shown in the main image for this post. Here is a closer look at the Fairey Gannet T.2 XA508 which is in the background of the image:
The Gannet is a huge beast and it’s no wonder it needs the dual propellers. We were also invited inside a recently restored Air Italia Vickers Viscount F-BGNR which made me appreciate the Airbuses I have flown aboard.
I took a lot more photos, but I hope this gives you, the potential visitor, a good idea of the collection. Our guide was modest about the museum’s achievements in preserving an important cross section of British aviation history. In my opinion everyone associated with the museum should be proud of the collection. The admission fee seemed too low given the amount of great stuff they have on show and despite its seemingly small size it was the best air museum I have been to. We all took the opportunity to make a donation in the collection box inside the Vulcan. It is worth mentioning that they had a lot of stuff inside as well including the history of aviation at Coventry and of course jet engine pioneer Frank Whittle.
Here’s the website featuring a (slightly out of date) map featuring the outdoor collection: