Nice and tricky

Recently spend a week with the misses in Wales, for a decent holiday with a fair amount of miles by foot, got utterly rain soaked wet whilst climbing down Mount Snowdon (no, we did NOT take the train!), and some decent aircraft spotting in between. For instance a few aircraft museums I never had been, or hadn’t for a long long time.

Every advantage has its own disadvantages, and vice versa, which became once again more than obvious when visiting these museums. Naturally I prefer to have as much aircraft as possible on display, instead of them being locked up in store. But sometimes, the good people responsible do take it a bit too far, resulting in packed halls with few if any decent photography opportunities. A few examples:

Weston-super-Mare

The International Helicopter Museum, a superb collection of helicopters, some more rare than others. During my previous visit here (I’m talking 1989 now) the collection wasn’t just much smaller, but also (for the most part I think to remember) outside. Nowadays they have a big hall to their disposal, and have done their utter best to stack as much helicopters as possible in there. And when I say stack, I really do mean STACK…

(click on the images for a larger view)

The main hall entrance, from here it still looks decently spacious

This recent addition, an Italian Guardia Di Finanza (customs) Agusta 109, fits (if only just) between a dividing wall and a support column. “Never mind the rotor blades, we’ll just leave them off then…”

A Polish Mi-8 Hip helicopter dominates part of the hall, but leaves little room to spare to the sides (I was pressed against a Lynx helicopter whilst taking this shot)

Another Polish rarity, this SM-2, tucked away against a support column.

One of the few exceptions, at least this Canadian HUP-3 was (almost) decently photograph-able. We’ll just forget about the rotor blade in front.

“…And in the red corner this Empire Test Pilot School Scout helicopter, flanked by a Queens Flight Whirlwind!”. I self was tucked against an at least equally fiery red Queens Flight Wessex helicopter

This Lynx foursome once again illustrates the lack of space.

Gazelle ZB686 has taken up a new identity as S216 RRL

Outside of the main hall a helicopter dump can be found, as seen here from the public road. I believe they prefer to call it a “storage site”. The unlucky that were unable to find a place for themselves inside are left to rot outside, including some rather rare specimen like two Danish S-55 helicopters. What a shame!

Caernarfon

Stepped into the Caernarfon Airworld Museum exactly three minutes before closing time, got permission to go see the exhibit for fifteen minutes or so anyway, and was even not allowed to pay the entrance fee because if the short time I was able to wander around! Marvellous and typically generous, I’ve often seen different… I made a donation to the museum  instead, it goes without speaking, thankful as I was.

The Whirlwind, positioned as an obvious eye-catcher, promised good photography possibilities. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent the good folk at Weston-super-Mare don’t have the exclusive rights to stacking as much as possible into the space they have. These Welshmen do a good job too!

The pilot apparently vacated his aircraft long before the backseater decided it was time to leave. A a smart move, it turned out when checking the other side of the wall that the rest of the Javelin aircraft has mysteriously disappeared!

Beautiful blue white and yellow staircase, a must see! Too bad about the Vampire spoiling the view. I tried to push it away for a better shot but failed because of the flat front tire. Oh, and before you ask: yes that IS a Swift there in the background. Only it’s a hardboard and paint one…

A Hunter always comes in handy when you have to display a couple of rather important placards.

Even hanging from the ceiling there is ample room to spare

No room to spare inside for this Hunter, thus banned to stand alone outside. This picture is proof it was both sunny and rainy on the same day (Snowdonia covered in rain clouds in the background here). Two hours earlier I was scrambling down Mount Snowdon with rain water dripping between my buttocks…

London Colney

Admitted: the Mosquito Aircraft Museum, dedicated to De Havilland and their most famous creation in particular, do show part of their collection outside. However, for the highlights of the collection, their three (!) Mosquito’s, there seems to be some need to have them each pushed into a corner of the main hangar as closely as it goes…

From my previous visit here, I seemed to remember a bright yellow Mosquito. In fact it was the very first prototype, very rare for aircraft of that era to have been preserved. After some research it turned out to be W4050 is being restored, and this is it! The pile of yellow parts behind the fuselage (not visible here) was an additional giveaway… Of course, a good thing they do a full restoration, but still somehow it looks a bit disappointing…

In one corner, work is being done on this Mark FB.6 Mosquito. Not very photogenic at the moment, and it came soon apparently clear that attempts to push it outside myself would not be well received.

 In the other corner they found some space left for this Mosquito TT.35. And to make things worse: there is a supposedly “neutral” Swiss Vampire in front blocking the view…

Wrapping up for now: am I really complaining? No, not at all! All are great collections with motivated staff who do their utter best to beautifully preserve as much old and rare aircraft as possible, and give the visitors to their respective museums a as pleasant as possible stay. And after all: that’s what really counts, isn’t it?

Cheers,
Marco