A 10-15 minute walk from Colindale station on the Northern line, on Aerodrome Road is vast expanse of land of what used to be the Hendon aerodrome, now the RAF museum. Be sure to pick a map of the place at the Reception as you will likely get lost in the vastness of the place no matter how good your sense of direction is. Set aside at least 4 hours to fully take in and enjoy the grandiose display of planes and the larger than life strength and power of the Royal Air Force. Split overs 5 exhibition halls, there is also a restaurant, a cafe and a shop. Let’s start with the main buildings.
Battle of Britain Hall
Starting with a film on the Battle of Britain the name given to the air war between Britain and Germany during the II world war, the hall exhibits various phases of the battle between Britain against the mighty German Luftwaffe. There are quite a few interactive displays. I found a display of an announcement for children on how to prepare for an attack, what to pack and so on the most touching of all. There is a statue in honour of Air Chief Marshal Keith Park who was instrumental in winning the battle against Germany although there is a debate surrounding who really won the battle, the British or Germans. Further down the hall is a hangar displaying aircrafts used in the Battle of Britain, what and when they were used for and so on. The size of some of the cockpits made me squint. Visitors can hop on to the Short Sunderland, a flying patrol boat.
The Grahame-White Factory Hall
Named after the earliest British aviation pioneer, the Grahame-White factory was historically an aircraft factory in the Hendon aerodrome now the RAF musuem and host to the First World War in the Air exhibition that opened to public in December 2014. This permanent exhibition includes heroic tales from the I world war, personal items such as uniforms, medals, diaries and photos of airforce crew, exhibits on the role of women in RAF and of course aircrafts used for combat in the I world war.
Milestones of Flight Exhibition Hall
A timeline of events starting from Wright brothers’ first invention all through a century of aviation is the highlight of this exhibition. Further down is the hangar with aircrafts from various timelines. Visitors can take the staircase or the elevator up to 2 floors for a balcony view of the aircrafts up close.
On display in this hall are the earliest helicopters, planes designed to land on waters, RAF overseas planes that were localised per climate and temperatures and also the fighter plane collection.
The Bomber Hall
The most intimidating and fascinating of them all is the Bomber Hall monopolized by the breathtakingly magnificent Vulcun. You have got to see it to believe the sheer size of this bomber. Who are the heroes whose hearts were devoid of fear and who actually climbed into this plane and flew it? One can’t help wonder the fascination Man has for the mean machine. Surely the ones who flew this bomber plane are more evolved souls? Certainly no average Joes would have the courage to climb into that! As one of the visitors, a former airforce pilot mentioned, the aircraft pilots were certainly a different breed where planes replace women for passion. Sigh! Certainly not as romantic as Tom Cruise in Top Gun! The fascination women have for men in Uniforms sure comes with a high price!
There is also an Astronaut Interactive Gallery with various simulated interactions to gauge your suitability and skills for flying.
The RAF museum holds many events throughout the year to commemorate the Battle of Britain’s 75th year. Visit the RAF Museum RAF Museum website for details.