Being an Aviation Geek, I knew I wanted to spend my birthday at the Museum of Flight in Scotland in East Fortune. I had never heard of such a place until I came across a photo on social media and knew instantly I had to experience it for myself.
With the air museum in East Fortune, just 30 miles from Edinburgh, we stayed at the Best Western in Portobello. It gave us ample choice for visiting the old town at night and exploring the museum the next day.
We started our morning with a walk along the beach. An east coast beach – another new experience for me.
It was a Monday morning so the beach was quite quiet. We plodded along the promenade from one end to the other, stopping to take photos and pet the cute dogs out on their morning walks. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many businesses along the sea front cater for pets.
After spending a few pounds in the arcade, we jumped bag in the car and headed to the museum.
About the Aviation Museum in Edinburgh
I had never been to an airfield before but it had a distinct post-war feel about the area. Not sure if it was the big barracks or the wide open spaces, but I was quickly transported back to the mid 20th century.
Driving in, we were immediately greeted by a huge British Airways Boeing 737, Dan-Air Comet and an Avro Vulcan all out in the open field. Although spread out, their sheer size was only emphasised when up against our standard VW Golf!
As you’ve already guessed, the museum is so much more than a stuffy building. It’s a four hangar collection of aircrafts and interactivity in a former airfield dating back to the first world war. And it’s clear from your first view as your drive in from the front gate.
Commercial planes in the open field are dwarfed by the gigantic hangars. But as you stroll from exhibit to exhibit, they don’t seem overbearing due to the wide open airy spaces that separate them.
Driving up to the car park, I was eager to get out the car and start exploring. The East Fortune airbase is huge, but looking at the map, it made sense to visit the Concorde exhibition first.
The Concorde Experience
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine there was a Concorde nestled away in the hangar attached to the gift shop and cafe. And by nestled, I mean bulging out of.
I grabbed a few photos standing under its entirety before walking round and getting a chance to explore the inside. I imagined it to be a lot smaller inside but if you’ve ever been on one of the small domestic Flybe planes I would say it felt like that. Can’t imagine doing it long haul right enough. But the information cards were clear – this was a luxury only a select few could afford.
It’s been 40 years since Scotland’s first BA Concorde passenger flight. A bit before my time but nonetheless so interesting to read about these giant birds.
Information podiums were dotted around the hangar, giving you a variety of information on the history of the fleet. We also discovered podiums dedicated to the Air France Concorde disaster, as well as the plane’s media reception, public perception, staff experiences and most importantly, ticket cost.
It was clear the fleet came with its fair share of praise and criticisms but all in all, a beautiful piece of engineering that we can only dream of experiencing nowadays.
The Military Hangar
As you can guess, this hangar was dedicated to the the aircraft and airfield’s role in conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st century.
It was packed with different types of aircraft’s and memorabilia to remember how each played their part. There was also a section dedicated to how dramatically the fighter jets seats have evolved over the years: going from a wicker stool and cushion to an immersive ejector seat with full body support.
The most impressive though has to be the world-famous Spitfire and Tornardo F3 interceptor. Oh and the Hawker Siddeley Harrier aka the ‘jump jet’. If you have even a smidgen of interest in history, this is the place for you. The hangar demonstrates how aviation warfare has evolved over the years and how we have adapted to new technology. As well as real aircrafts on display, you can also get an idea of the people involved, their uniforms and their lives in this arm of the military.
The Civil Aviation Hangar
The Civil Aviation Hangar was probably the most eye opening. It’s centred on documenting how aviation is used in every day life, from hobbies to solving community issues and geographical research through aerial photography.
One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit was how it shows examples of the first to the most up to date models of different engine-aircrafts, gliders and drones.
As well as the exhibits stored inside, they also have a huge British Airways Boeing 737, Dan-Air Comet and a Royal Airforce Avro Vulcan! The first two you can go inside and explore, and you can walk and explore the underside of the Vulcan.
Perfect for the Entire Family
The museum is perfect for the entire family. It’s not just a ‘plane museum’. It offers plenty of interactive exhibits, displays and games to get young ones involved, specifically in hangar 10. It’s also quite educational as it teaches a lot of aviation and the science behind it e.g. gravity, wind speed, aircraft weight, coordinates, geography etc. There are puzzles and games to for every one.
My favourite by far was the paper plane making station. There were three different instructions to make a paper plane and a wind assisted tunnel to help you shoot it off towards one of three targets. My plane worked out well but unfortunately my flying skills left something to be desired.
I also really enjoyed the plane simulator. Two of us handled three controls, trying to land a fictitious plane into the East Fortune barracks. No mean feat but we managed nonetheless. Maybe I should try flying lessons?!
Overall we spent about 3 hours at the East Fortune airfield, but it certainly felt a lot quicker!
If you want to find more about the Scottish Museum of Flight you can visit the National Museums Scotland website here. Or have a look at the map of the East Fortune airfield and exhibits here.
Want more ideas for things to do in Edinburgh?