Whenever I travel, I like to seek out local aviation museums. There are often some rare gems to be found. That was definitely the case during my recent trip to Scotland. I was able to visit the National Museum of Flight (NMF), and it was a day extremely well-spent.
The museum is located in East Fortune, a short drive from Edinburgh. The site was formerly a Royal Air Force (RAF) station with roots dating back to World War I. Several of the museum's buildings are rare surviving examples of World War 2-era hangars and facilities. The museum occupies only a portion of the former station. Other areas are home to a small civilian airport and an amateur race track. I saw plenty of activity in all three areas during my Sunday afternoon visit.
I was particularly excited to visit NMF since it was to be my first aviation museum outside of the US. That alone ensured that I would find numerous aircraft that I'd never seen before. I love it when I finally run across an example of an airplane that I've read about and viewed photos of, but never seen in person. I was able to punch that card many times at NMF.
One of the main attractions at this museum is an example of the Concorde supersonic airliner. It is housed indoors, so the airplane remains in pristine condition. I've actually seen another Concorde at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. The big difference here is NMF's refreshing lack of velvet ropes. You can walk all around and under the airplane with few restrictions. Best of all, you can even walk through the interior for a look at the cabin and cockpit. It is actually less cramped than I imagined it would be. It's not exactly roomy, but wide-body airliners can't fly at Mach 2.
The Concorde was a controversial airplane throughout its lifetime. While many lauded the technological innovation and speed that the airplane represented, there was also a camp that denounced the noise and massive fuel consumption of the design. NMF's exhibit does a good job of presenting both sides in a balanced an unbiased way. There is also objective analysis of the fatal Concord crash in 2000 and the subsequent factors that resulted in the plane's retirement.