We’re welcomed into the De Havilland aviation museum by a volunteer who explains proudly that their collection has the only three WWII Mosquito aircraft in the country. I notice a group of retired gentlemen chatting and laughing in the cafe; he tells us that the BBC is here today interviewing some veterans.
The museum, established in 1959, was the first of its type to open to the public and is dedicated to preserving and communicating De Havilland’s contribution to innovation in British aviation technology.
We step into the field and there before our very eyes is a collection of full sized jet airplanes! I stumble upon the world famous “Comet 2R” built in the early fifties. Only its nose and front fuselage have survived; I stand in front of it and take in the clean curvature of its shape designed for maximum velocity.
I walk on, turn a corner and discover a wooden WWII Mosquito light fighter plane, a prototype. Its first flight was in November 1940, piloted by Geoffrey de Havilland himself. I stand under a wing looking up, trying to fathom how this aircraft ever got off the ground!
I am approached by a volunteer who is amused by my puzzled expression; like many of the volunteers, he is a retired pilot and very knowledgeable; he leads the way into the hangar and shows me a type of flexible lightweight wood used to make part of the wings.
Inside, dedicated volunteers surrounded by historic exhibits of photos and memorabilia
walk around carrying tools and components, quietly working to restore various aircraft.
The volunteer then shows me another fighter plane and invites me to climb into the cockpit of the Sea Vixen built in 1960; I sit there in silence, listening to him as I gaze in awe at the many dials measuring air pressure, speed, fuel and altitude covered by a web of connecting wires; I marvel at the advanced capacity of the human brain able to design these feats of aeronautical engineering. I love the sound of the technical words that he reels off like “tail booms” and “transonic flight.”
By the time we leave, I’m all smiles and tell my husband that I feel raring to go.
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