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TAKING FLIGHT: Future looks bright for innovative Shenley aircraft museum

 Published on: 19th May 2024   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

Nestled between Shenley and London Colney is a special museum which is the largest of its kind in the country.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is the biggest aviation museum dedicated to one single company in the UK. Based out of former stately home Salisbury Hall, the volunteer-run museum has played host to all manner of aircraft since November 15, 1959.

Philip Birtles, the museum’s president, spoke to Radlett News about the museum’s founding.

He said: “Aeroplanes were still being left over and scrapped from the Second World War, and this museum opened with the perseveration of the original Mosquito prototype, which was created here in 1940. It’s now displayed here on the site, where it was conceived originally.”

The de Havilland business was renowned for its innovation in aviation and was constantly at the forefront of the industry. It was notable for the Second World War fighter plane the Mosquito, as well as the Vampire, which was the first plane powered with a single jet engine to be used by the Royal Air Force back in 1946.

When asked about why centres like this are so important, Philip said: “It’s not just a museum; they can be dark, dusty, boring places. This is more like a heritage centre. Everything here is hands-on and informal.

“I was asked a question by the director of the Imperial War Museum recently. She asked: ‘Why de Havilland?’ I didn’t answer her; I took her round instead. And then, she understood.”

As well as operating as a heritage centre, the museum also acts as a restoration centre for many of the aircraft on site, with engineers working in front of guests to bring the machines back to their former glory.

Philip added: “We encourage the younger generation. We’ve got one or two who are apprentices here. The other day, we had a 16-year-old girl learning how to chamfer plywood.

“What I’m working on is to pair with the University of Hertfordshire. When their aeronautical engineering students are working all the time on computers, we can offer a batch of them hands-on, practical engineering experience.”

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum has also recently benefitted from a £1.9 million grant from the National Lottery Fund, which has allowed them to open the Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar in 2020, containing a new events space for up to 80 people.

Several upcoming events include a performance from the Welwyn Garden City Brass Band alongside retro musical group Carol and the Comets, who will be singing inside the Mosquito hanger from 2pm on Saturday, April 13. There will be a similar concert on Saturday, June 22.

On Sunday, May 19, the centre will be playing host to their annual Model Show, which is a hugely popular event for enthusiasts.

There are also plans for a memorabilia fair in September and a Christmas fair in November.

To find out more about the museum and its upcoming events, visit their website.

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