This year's treat was a visit to the Bournemouth Aviation Museum in company with a fellow Nevil Shute devotee who's a volunteer there. Interesting exhibits, insider info, and privileged access.
It's small and chaotically overcrowded with aircraft, parts thereof, models and miscellanea. Adding to the homely ambience is the hands-on policy. Aircraft can be touched and felt, climbed on and sat in, a sure way to spark the enthusiasm of the aviators of the future, and quite a thrill for some of us oldies too. Here's me sitting in the cockpit of a Lightning, Britain's first and last operational Mach 2 fighter. Not something I do every day, and perhaps the least comfortable space I have ever entered.
The Museum shares hangars with commercial aero engineering firms and there is plenty of interest there, including the Sea Vixen whose resplendent Red Bull logo decorates airshow skies to great effect. Standing between the booms I had a chat with the chief engineer and navigator. For certification purposes the aircraft's fitted with a fatigue-meter measuring cumulative G-force, and so smoothly (yet still impressively) is it flown by its current pilot that the predicted stress life of the airframe now stands at 51 years. It's the last one flying, but there are three container-loads of spare parts on site to ensure that this will continue for a good long time.
Volunteers from the large local population of retired engineers provide restoration effort. My friend's project is a Gryphon engine, retrieved from a crash as a mass of burnt metal and now a pleasing and informative exhibit with polished camshafts and gleaming magneto. While he's working away at this, Museum visitors stop to chat about it, learn something or exchange opinions, and so have a more enjoyable visit. It's an excellent set-up.
The Dragon Rapide behind Mike isn't a Museum exhibit but the property of a local millionaire. Inside it's like a Rolls Royce, opulent in cream leather, no expense spared. The owner's named it after his wife, no doubt equally elegant, costly, and delicious smelling.