What to see at new-look de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The de Havilland Comet 1a in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

The de Havilland Comet 1a in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

Alan Davies

A museum preserving the heritage of Hatfield aircraft factory de Havilland is about to enter a new era.

DH C1 Chipmunk in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesDH C1 Chipmunk in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum opens its doors again today (Sunday, February 16) after its winter closure.

Visitors will see for the first time many of its historic aircraft on display in the large new climate-controlled hangar, which is now their permanent home.

The Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar is the centrepiece of the £3million 'Museum for the 21st Century Project' initiated by the museum some five years ago and now nearing completion thanks to the support of National Lottery players and a number of other sponsors.

The new hangar alone at the Salisbury Hall, London Colney, site has cost nearly £2million.

A view from the mezzanine of the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesA view from the mezzanine of the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

It is linked to the existing Walter Goldsmith Hangar - opened in 1982 by Her Majesty the Queen Mother - the Aeroshop, café and entrance foyer to provide a totally undercover experience where aviation enthusiasts can see restoration work being carried out by teams of volunteers as well as sit in the cockpits of jet fighters.

With its opening, the new hangar - named after the founder of the aircraft company, Geoffrey de Havilland - also brings to the area an exciting new community facility which can cater for corporate and company events, conferences and meetings, local organisations and educational visits.

With a collection of more than 20 aircraft all designed and built by the Hatfield-based de Havilland Aircraft Company, the museum's aim is to preserve not only the aircraft but also the enormous contribution the firm made to aviation and the local community during its life from the First World War to amalgamation in the 1960s to eventually form part of British Aerospace (BAe).

The history of the company - founded in 1920 - and its aircraft is explained in all-new, easy-to-read information displays at the museum.

The replica Comet Racer in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesThe replica Comet Racer in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

In the new hangar visitors can walk inside the main cabin of the sole surviving DH.106 Comet 1a - the world's first jet airliner still with its original 'square' windows.

Designed and built in Hatfield, the Comet celebrated its 70th anniversary last summer.

Visitors to the de Havilland museum can also get up close to a DH.100 Vampire jet fighter, and see the only example built of the unique de Havilland-engined Cierva C.24 Autogyro.

The Walter Goldsmith Hangar, named after the museum founder, is now home to the collection of de Havilland DH.98 Mosquitos.

The new site plan of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesThe new site plan of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

The all-wood, twin-engine multi-role Second World War aircraft was designed at Salisbury Hall in secret after de Havilland moved its design team there from Hatfield in 1939.

The three Mosquitos on display include the 1940-built first prototype, W4050.

Two large sections of a Second World War Airspeed Horsa troop carrying glider - immortalised by its key role in the airborne attack at Arnhem in 1944 - are also on show, the company having become part of de Havilland and the prototype being designed and built in another hangar there.

Four civil airliners continue to be on external display due to their size.

DH112 Sea Venom in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesDH112 Sea Venom in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

These include a DH.106 Dove, DH.114 Heron, the BAe 146 'Whisper Jet' and the DH125 executive aircraft.

These will also be open to visitors depending on the weather and restoration work being carried out by volunteers.

A separate workshop features a 1930s de Havilland DH.89a Dragon Rapide biplane which is being restored to flight, while next door is a working Link trainer, the first simulator designed to teach pilots to fly in the dark using only their cockpit instruments.

While the aircraft are the stars of the museum, there is also a display of a number of engines and air-to-air missiles designed by de Havilland.

Inside the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesInside the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

These include the Gypsy series of propeller engines, and Ghost, Goblin, Gnome and Gyron jet power plants, alongside which are Firestreak and Red Top AAMs, which were carried by among other aircraft, the de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen twin jet all-weather fighter also on display there.

Visitors can take a break and enjoy hot and cold snacks and drinks in the café, and also browse a large range of aviation-related items, including books, museum-logoed clothing and confectionery in the Aeroshop.

The museum is signposted at Junction 22 of the M25 and has its own car park.

For more information visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk or call 01727 826400.

A display of rockets in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesA display of rockets in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

DH100 Vampire in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesDH100 Vampire in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

DH100 Vampire information board in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesDH100 Vampire information board in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

The de Havilland DH98 MosquitoThe de Havilland DH98 Mosquito


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