Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A Visit to Aerospace Bristol

Loads of cool things and people have come out of Bristol: Massive Attack, Cary Grant, Aardman Animations, Bananarama ('80s girl band, if you didn't know) and, of course, Concorde, perhaps the most mythologised form of transport of the modern age. While I'm not really an aviation geek, I have always had a bit of a thing about air travel and I'm a child of the '70s so naturally Concorde has been, if you'll excuse the pun, on my radar for many years. 
But not having been born the daughter of a wealthy rock star or member of the royal family sort of made actually going on Concorde a bit problematic. But last weekend I fulfilled a life goal by boarding the iconic aircraft at the recently opened Aerospace Bristol museum.

Opened at the end of the summer, Aerospace Bristol houses the last to be built and last to fly Concorde, Alpha Foxtrot. Displayed in all her glory in a hanger at the historic Filton airfield, visitors to the museum can live the dream - albeit while remaining on terra firma - by walking around the aircraft and stepping aboard to see what cabin life was like if you had a spare £8000 to spend on a ticket. 

I visited with my two boys - both of whom are mad on all things aviation - and they were pretty wowed out by seeing Concorde up close and personal. Having pored over the legendary aircraft's story in countless books over the years, it was great to see them wide-eyed with wonder as they stepped inside, taking a peek into the cockpit and walking through the plane. I found myself thinking about all the famous names who made Concorde their preferred mode of transport back in the day; if only planes could talk...
Spot-lit in splendid isolation, the museum has created a truly fitting tribute to this spectacular piece of engineering; she looks absolutely stunning in her new home. Alongside the plane there's a room filled with interesting exhibits and memorabilia - glamours flight attendant uniforms, tickets, crockery and wonderful pictures of the 'ordinary' fans of Concorde who somehow found the money to cross the Atlantic at supersonic speeds.
But Aerospace Bristol isn't just about Concorde - it's a fascinating collection of exhibits that traces the fascinating and perhaps not-so-well-known history of The Bristol Aeroplane Company. For anyone born in Bristol like myself, it's a great education in just how important aviation and engineering have been in shaping our city. 

Plenty of interactive exhibits keep younger visitors happy and, as well as Concorde, there are lots of other models and replicas to explore, including a Bristol tram, Bristol Boxkite, Bristol Babe and Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile. 

You can immerse yourself of the story of the Filton Airfield during the two World Wars, a time of great innovation that saw women exchange domestic work for building engines on the factory floor; in 1918 alone over 2000 aircraft were turned out from the Filton and Brislington works and over 3000 people were on the payroll. 

The museum charts the rise of the Unions as the Concorde project struggled to get off the ground, with local MP at the time, Tony Benn, supporting the many local people employed at Filton whose livelihoods hung in the balance. 

More recent history is also covered; you can see how engineers in Bristol have helped to develop cutting-edge, space age technologies and robotics. All in all, it makes you feel very proud of the city's heritage as a leader in aviation innovation. There's also a flight simulator which - though not fully immersive at the moment (it will be coming to the museum in 2018) - offers the chance to experience take-off and cruise control from the perspective of the cockpit.
The museum also houses a cafe and a shop, filled with imaginative gifts, books and toys. We spent an entire morning at the museum - there's a lot to see here and plenty of room for little ones to wander around without getting in the way of more seriously-minded aviation fans. 

A standard family ticket costs £39 and your tickets can be used for return visits within a year of booking. We all came away from our day at Aerospace Bristol feeling it had exceeded our expectations. And as a local girl who's followed Concorde's story over the years and was sad to see it take its last flight over Bristol, I'm really happy that this iconic aircraft - built just a few miles from where I was born - has come home in style. 

With thanks to Aerospace Bristol who gave me a complimentary trip to the museum. All words and photos are my own. Visit the website here for more information.



  1. Great post, can't wait to check out the museum ��

    1. Thanks! It's a great museum - highly recommended!


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