Take the kids to … Aerospace Bristol

Boarding Concorde takes pride of place at this extensive new museum dedicated to Bristol’s role in aviation history

In a nutshell

Beside the once-thriving Filton airfield, this new museum showcases Bristol’s role in aerospace engineering over the last century. There are masses of exhibits, from the earliest planes that were produced on site, such as the Bristol Boxkite and Britain’s first twin-rotor helicopter, through to cold-war missiles and scale models of rockets and satellites. Most exciting though is the Concorde Alpha Foxtrot, assembled and tested here, and the last to be flown.

Fun fact

Concorde’s cockpit windows were tested with a “bird cannon”. Whole, raw chickens were fired at the glass to simulate the effects of a bird strike.

Best things about it

The dramatic audio-visual effects projected onto Concorde’s nose and fuselage bring home what an impressive a feat of engineering she was. Boarding this supersonic retiree is an obvious highlight, though be prepared to queue. Inside, look out for signatures on the door to the flight deck, scribbled by the crew of her final flight.

Concorde 216 at Aerospace Bristol.
Concorde Alpha Foxtrot at Aerospace Bristol. Photograph: Alamy

Kids will enjoy learning how wings work in the small wind tunnel, and the Concorde cockpit’s bewildering racks of knobs, switches and dials. Other highlights include walking through a cross-section of a plane and discovering that the Bristol Pegasus engine powered some of the greatest aviation feats, such as the first flight over Everest and several world altitude records. We also liked that the curators have made a point of celebrating Filton’s highly-skilled female workforce.

What about lunch?

The museum cafe serves sandwiches (from £2.95) and hot food (soup and jacket potatoes from £4.50; ricotta gnocci £7.95). There are no kids meals, though the cafe will do small portions of hot meals for a reduced price. There will soon be a picnic area outside the Concorde hangar.

Exit through the gift shop?

Yes, selling a good range of engineering, aeronautical and wartime-themed toys, books and gifts. There are kites, rocket blasters and moon torches and build-your-own model kits. Prices range from 75p for a pen through to £54.95 for a model Concorde kit.

Prop plane, part of the museum’s collection of early models.
A single-engine plane, part of the museum’s collection of early models. Photograph: Alamy

Getting there

By car, exit the M5 at junction 17 and follow signs for The Mall and Filton. At the third roundabout on Hayes Way take the third exit. Aerospace Bristol is on your left. The nearest railway station is Bristol Parkway, a two-mile taxi ride away.

Value for money?

Not bad: adult £15, child £8, family £24.50-£39, and the ticket is valid for a year if you opt for gift aid.

Opening hours

Winter hours 10am-4pm; from 10-25 February 9.30am-5.30pm; from 26 February 10am-5pm. Closed 24-26 December.

Verdict

7/10. In time, it would be good to see the now-derelict historic airfield tidied up.

aerospacebristol.org

Contributor

Kari Herbert

The GuardianTramp

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