RogerBW's Blog

Midland Air Museum 14 October 2017

The Midland Air Museum is round the back of Coventry airport, next door to the now-deceased Electric Railway Museum, and I visited it on the same day. It has a strong focus on Armstrong Whitworth and related companies, which had a factory here. All photos are cc-by-sa as usual.

As it says, a reconstruction of the control panel for the first gas turbine engine test-run. Well, in some respects the first; Hans von Ohain's hydrogen-fuelled early models ran two years earlier, but needed external power.

Power Jets W.2/700, as flown in the E.28/39 and early Meteors.

The main body of the museum was infested by vendors of aviation tat (I don't know whether this is a regular thing), so it was hard to get good pictures of many of the aircraft (and some had been moved out of easy access to get more tables in). But here's a de Havilland Vampire, one of my favourites of the early jets.

That's not a roof, that's a Vulcan through that door. Later, later.

Bristol Hercules, aggressively cut away.

Armstrong-Siddeley Stentor engine (for Blue Steel).

A later generation of Link trainer from the usual sort. Note circuit boards behind the panel on the left.

Red Top and Fireflash missiles. (The Fireflash used that configuration, two boosters carrying the main unpowered missile body up to speed, because of fears that ionisation in the rocket exhaust would interfere with guidance signals. This turned out not to be the case.)

Saab 29 Tunnan (the only one I've seen outside Sweden), and its powerplant: a de Havilland Ghost with added reheat, built under licence as the Svenska Flygmotor RM2B.

Next to it for no obvious reason, a Griffon.

The back wall contains various aircraft models, and the case at the end is clearly the "barking mad ideas" one - including this T.1127, proposal for a training version of what would become the Harrier.

Also this VTOL fighter proposal with excessive numbers of tiny lift engines.

And this close-support aircraft proposal in which I at least feel I can see some ancestry of the A-10. (It ought to have been called the Mosquito, had there not already been a plane of that name.)

BAe P.1214 advanced STOVL concept; to the right, P.1216 ditto; behind them, Grumman A12.

Armstrong Siddeley Single Mamba. Behind it, a Slingsby T.38 Grasshopper.

Lockheed T-33.

Gloster Meteor.

A somewhat hacked-about Canberra (nose only). Why are there instruments down there by the pilot's feet? There's no bomb-aiming position or anything like that. Nothing on the label to give any clues.

Covered and unlabelled: one of two prototypes of the Chichester-Miles Leopard four-seat business jet, from 1997.

Meteor nightfighter.

de Havilland 125 business jet, remounted for training.

Westland Wessex.

Vulcan B.2.

There are clean landing gear bays and there are dirty landing gear bays…

Inside the crew compartment, navigator radar's position.

Looking across to navigator plotter and air electronics officer's positions.

Pilot's and co-pilot's positions. No access to these, because the ram air turbine deploying handle is purely mechanical, and still live.

Lower in the nose, the bomb-aimer's compartment, fitted as many of them were with a camera for assessing the accuracy of simulated bombing runs.

Blue Steel.

Looking up into the entrance hatchway (cockpit at right).

Boulton Pail P.111A, for exploring the flight characteristics of tailless delta wing aircraft.

Armstrong Whitworth Argosy.

And more cockpit time, this time in the co-pilot's seat. Definitely of the "every flat surface has a switch on it" school of aircraft design. Note in particular complex pressurisation controls, and weather radar clearly bodged in after the design had been mostly fixed. (Apparently on-board power wasn't enough to run both pilot's and co-pilot's sets at the same time.)

Hawker Hunter.

A rare Gloster Javelin.

Armstrong-Whitworth Sea Hawk.

de Havilland Sea Vixen. Those overwing strakes shouldn't work aesthetically, but they do.

Fairey Gannet, always larger than one expects.

Tornado GR.4.

Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2B (nose only).

Lockheed Starfighter.

Mi-24 Hind.

MiG-21SPS, from the East German Air Force.

North American F-86A Sabre.

Phantom, of course.

Polish TS-11 Iskra jet trainer.

Handley-Page Victor (nose section only, that one that looks as if it's out of Flash Gordon).

Pilot's position. Not for the nervous fiddler-with-things.

Down onto the bomb-aimer's padded floor.

"…even more than most of the things in here."

Rear part of the crew compartment, again with navigator radar, navigator plotter and air electronics officer.

Ex-Finnish Air Force Folland Gnat.

de Havilland Dove.

Percival Prentice.

Another Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. (Ex French Air Force, so why that rondel has a green centre…)

F-100D Super Sabre.

F-101B Voodoo.

Another unknown and unlabelled.

de Havilland Canada Beaver.

Lightning. Someone designed that access ladder.

Dassault Mystere IVA.

Canberra. No, not quite that old.

Ex-Saudi Lightning.

Viper engine.

Alvis Leonides.

Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire.

Bristol Siddeley BS605 JATO rocket engine.

Unlabelled mechanical bomb-aiming computer.

Here's an obscure one: the Armstrong Whitworth Pyramid re-entry vehicle proposal from 1958.

Possibly the worst plan I've seen for a STOL transport: horizontal air intakes to the lift engines (Medways).

A.W.52 flying wing, presumably a wind-tunnel model.

Another A.W. proposal.

Model of Croydon Aerodrome in 1928.

Early Humber aero engine.

Overall, the labelling could have been better, but this museum has some remarkably interesting things - and their policy on cockpit entry is very welcome.

  1. Posted by John Dallman at 11:51pm on 14 October 2017

    It was a very enjoyable museum. Recommended.

  2. Posted by Chris Suslowicz at 11:39am on 15 October 2017

    I've been there a couple of times (most recently for the radio club AGM), but the original visit (many years ago) included a tour of the Vulcan where we did get to sit in the cockpit and were taken through the engine start procedure by Frank (an ex-Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot, now sadly deceased). Presumably they either hadn't realised the risk of someone pulling the turbine lever in those days.

    I was surprised to find the crew area of the Vulcan was so small considering the size of the aircraft.


  3. Posted by RogerBW at 11:54am on 15 October 2017

    Even so, room to move around a little, and they did squeeze in two more observer seats, but I wouldn't want to be trying to get out in a hurry.

    …does this mean the Vulcan doesn't count as "fully pressurised" the way the Argosy is?

  4. Posted by Chris Suslowicz at 12:54am on 16 October 2017

    Martin-Baker designed an ejection system for the three crew members in the back, but the MoD declined it (probably on cost grounds). In the event of problems, the only survivors would be the pilot, co-pilot and (if the aircraft was high enough) the one in the central seat at the back.

    Not sure about pressurisation, I don't think it was because the 'drums' of electronic equipment in the tail section were pressurised to permit the cooling systems to work, so it may have just been the crew area.


  5. Posted by RogerBW at 09:06am on 16 October 2017

    There may be some sealed boxes elsewhere, but the crew compartment is the only section that has anything like pressure control.

    (The comment was intended to be a joke, given how much of a fuss the Argosy cockpit makes about its pressurisation system.)

  6. Posted by Chris Suslowicz at 11:53am on 16 October 2017

    Ah yes, the Argosy... there's a joke in "Tales from the Crewroom" about that particular aircraft:

    Q: What is the payload capacity of the Argosy? A: The cargo bay floor.

    (Also, I've since discovered that the tale about the Lightning episode in that book is the apocryphal (or at least, wildly inaccurate[TM]) version. The test was nothing to do with engine power, but an attempt to discover why various electronic systems tripped out on take-off - eventually discovered to be an unused free socket behind the instrument panel that could just make contact with the panel under take-off acceleration and short the radio power input contact to ground (it was an extra socket to feed an optional different radio that required a different connector) .)


  7. Posted by Owen Smith at 06:13pm on 16 October 2017

    There were a number of Vulcan bail outs where all five crew survived. The guys in the back had booster cushions they could trigger to help them get onto the ladder.

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