Days Out: The RAF Museum, London

The museum is on the site of the old London Aerodrome, founded in 1910 by Louis Blériot (the first man to fly across the Channel) and Claude Grahame-White, a pioneer aircraft builder. Home to the glamorous 1920s and 1930s Hendon Airshows, planes flew from here in both world wars. Today, the museum holds one of the world's leading collections of historic aircraft, with more than 100 planes in vast hangars (great for active children in bad weather). The oldest is a 1910 Blériot, and there are tri-planes and bi-planes (including a Sopwith Camel), a vast Sunderland flying boat that you can walk right through, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Fokkers, and a Lancaster bomber that flew 137 missions in the Second World War (most only lasted 20 to 25). Bringing the collection right up to date is a full-size replica of the Eurofighter Typhoon which joined the RAF front line just a few weeks ago. And there is much more besides the planes - history, science and a lot of fun ...

Something for grown-ups

The museum should satisfy anyone from the casual visitor to the well-informed enthusiast. The Milestones of Flight Exhibition has a broad and informative timeline from 1903 - the year of the Wright brothers' first flight - until 2003. Key moments in aviation history are set against political events (and more lightweight landmarks such as the first Mars Bar in 1935). There is also a great internet version of the timeline at rafmuseum.org.uk /milestones-of-flight/timeline. An excellent and fascinating Sound and Light Show brings the Battle of Britain to life on the hour every hour. It makes very effective use of film on a gauze screen, with sound effects and lighting on a real Spitfire and Hurricane that actually flew in the battle.

Something for children

Also in the Battle of Britain Hall is an exhibition about the build up to war and life during the Blitz. It includes an extract from the then prime minister Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" speech, life-size scenes of evacuation and a Londoner complaining that the Germans bombed her laundry! The Aeronauts Interactive Gallery has lots of touch and try exhibits all about the science of flight (and the National Curriculum). Sit in a mocked-up cockpit and use the pilot's controls to shift the rudder, ailerons and elevators. Then get out and use the same controls on a model plane in a flow of air to see what effect your actions would have had in flight. My son's favourite activity is the Drop Zone. A small plane "flies" along a rail at ceiling height, carrying a load. You have to decide when to press the button to release the load and hit the target on the floor. Not as simple as it sounds - but great fun. There are "Pathfinders" (explainers) on hand to help, and quiz sheets to fill in. Daily presentations - "Plane and Simple" - use some lively demonstrations to explain how aeroplanes fly. Ever popular too are the simulators (£2.50). Take a "flight" in the new Eurofighter Typhoon, or, our favourite, an airborne roller-coaster ride with the Red Arrows.

Refreshments

The 120-seater Wings Restaurant is like an RAF mess, offering self-service hot food (main courses £6.10) and sandwiches. The Wessex Café sells drinks and snacks and there are indoor and outdoor picnic areas.

Access

Wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs available pre-booked from the museum. Disabled parking. (No Braille or induction loop.)

Admission

Open daily from 10am to 6pm (except 24-26 December and 1 January). Entry free.

How to get there

RAF Museum, Grahame Park Way, London NW9 5LL; Hendon@rafmuseum.org; 020-8205-2266.

By train: 7 minutes walk from Colindale Tube, (Northern Line); 10 minutes from Mill Hill Broadway railway station. By bus: the 303 stops outside. By car: plenty of free parking.

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions