Explore the story of aviation from the start of the 20th century to the present day through our collection of military and civil aircraft.

Aircraft of the Second World War

de Havilland Tiger Moth

One of the world's great light aircraft designs, the DH.82 Tiger Moth was built as an improved version of the earlier DH.60 Moth family, first flying in 1931. During the Second World War the Tiger Moth served as the RAF's standard basic trainer. Many ex-service examples ended up in civilian service post-war in a multitude of roles, and many of these still fly today.

Our Tiger Moth was sold off after the war and was eventually bought by the comedian Dick Emery as one of two Tiger Moths in his possession. He reputedly gate-crashed a wedding in this aeroplane, wearing a three-piece suit under his flying overalls!

Tiger Moth fact file

Crew: 2, student and instructor
Max speed: 175km/h at 300m altitude
Length: 7.34 m
Height: 2.68m
Wingspan:
 8.94 m
Engine: 1 x de Havilland Gypsy Major
On display: Restoration Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Tiger Moth

Above: Tiger Moth on display in Restoration hangar.

de Havilland Dragon DH84

The de Havilland DH.84 Dragon was a successful small commercial aircraft designed and built by the de Havilland company. It was originally designated the DH.84 Dragon Moth but was marketed as the Dragon. The prototype became the first production example and entered commercial service in April 1933.

Used as a trainer aircraft during the Second World War, post-war surviving DH.84s were later released into commercial service. The Dragon could carry six passengers each with 20 kg of luggage on the London-Paris route on a fuel consumption of just 49 l per hour, making it attractive as a short-haul, low capacity airliner. A number of Dragons are still flying today.

Dragon fact file

Crew: 1
Capacity: 6-10 passengers
Length: 10.52m
Height: 3.07m
Wingspan:
14.43m
Engines: 2 × de Havilland Gipsy Major 1 4-cylinder air-cooled inverted inline
On display: Restoration Hangar, National Museum of Flight

General Aircraft Cygnet

The General Aircraft Cygnet was Britain's first all-metal monoplane with a tricycle undercarriage and enclosed cabin. First flying in 1936, only nine examples were built, of which this one was constructed in 1941.

Our Cygnet was used by the RAF to train crews in operating American aircraft types with a tricycle undercarriage layout, such as the Douglas Boston. It was flown twice by Guy Gibson, who commanded 617 Squadron and led the Dams raid on the Ruhr dams in May 1943. The National Museums Scotland's collection has a reproduction of Guy Gibson’s pilot’s log book. The log book records the Dams raid and also the two flights he made in our Cygnet.

After the war the Cygnet had a long and active flying career, becoming part of the Strathallan Collection and eventually being flown into East Fortune in 1981. It is one of two survivors; the other is in Argentina.

Cygnet fact file

Crew: 1 pilot and 1 passenger
Max speed: 217 k/h
Length: 7.09 m
Height: 2.13 m
Wingspan:
 10.52 m
Engine: 1 x Blackburn Cirrus Major 114 inverted cylinder
On display: Restoration Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Cygnet

Above: Cygnet aircraft in Restoration Hangar.

Vickers Supermarine Spitfire LF.XVIe

The Supermarine Spitfire is recognised as one of the greatest military aircraft of all time. First flying in 1936, the RAF's first all-metal fighters are legendary. Our example is derived from the externally similar LF.IXe, the principal difference being the installation in the Mark XVI of an American Packard built Merlin engine. Features not in common with the more familiar Spitfire versions are the blown 'bubble' canopy and clipped wingtips, enabling the aircraft to roll much more quickly.

Built in 1945, our Spitfire, TE462, never saw squadron service. It was used at No 101 Flight Refresher School for pilot training. TE462 spent time as a gate guard at RAF Ouston, Northumberland before becoming the first aeroplane at the National Museum of Flight.

Spitfire fact file

Crew: 1
Max speed: 605km/h
Length: 9.12m
Height: 3.86m
Wingspan:
11.23m
On display: Military Aviation Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Spitfire1

Above: Vickers Supermarine Spitfire.

Bristol Beaufighter TF.X

The Beaufighter was as a heavily armed, long range fighter. When it entered service with the RAF in 1940 it was the world's most powerful fighter, and excelled as an anti-shipping strike aircraft. When East Fortune became an anti-shipping strike training unit during the Second World War, Bristol Beaufighters were one of the principal aircraft. Training took place over Aberlady Bay for torpedo bombing and unguided rocket attacks.

RD220 was constructed at the Shadow Aircraft Factory at Old Mixon, Weston-super-Mare, as one of sixteen Beaufighters transferred to the Portuguese Navy. After five years’ military service it was handed over to the Lisbon Technical Institute in 1950, then to the Museo do Ar at Alverca Air Base in 1966, where it was stored outdoors. It was purchased by the South African Air Force Museum in 1983 and by National Museums Scotland in 2000.

Bristol Beaufighter fact file

Crew: 2, pilot and observer
Length: 12.6 m
Height: 4.84m
Wingspan:
 17.65 m
Engines: 2 x Bristol Hercules 14 cylinder radial engines
On display: Restoration Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Miles M.18 Mk II

Our M.18 was built in 1942 and was the only Mark II version built. It is the only survivor of four examples built of an intended replacement for the successful Miles Magister trainer, to which the M.18 is similar in appearance.

The aeroplane served as Miles' communication aircraft as HM454 but never saw military service. Post-war in civilian hands it won a number of prominent air races including the 1961 Kings Cup.  It was bought by the Strathallan Collection and then the Scottish Aircraft Preservation Trust and restored to flying condition. In 1991 it was flown to East Fortune for permanent display.

Miles M.18 fact file

Crew: 1
Passenger: 1
Max speed: 228km/h at altitude and 193km/h cruising
Length: 7.3m
Wingspan: 9.5m
Engine: 1 x Blackburn Cirrus Major III
On display: Restoration Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Messerschmitt Me 163B-1a Komet

The world's only operational rocket powered interceptor, the unique Me 163 was the fastest aircraft of the Second World War. The first Komets entered service in 1944, this one included. An interesting aspect of the Komet was that its wheels dropped off after take-off and upon landing the aircraft would glide to the ground on a retractable skid. However, the two volatile fuels powering the rocket motor made all aspects of Komet operations highly dangerous. Their high speed was a hindrance in actual combat, and they became vulnerable to prowling Allied fighters when gliding into land.

Captured at Husum, Schleswig Holstein, at the end of the war, this Komet went to the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in 1947. After many years attending air displays and open days at various venues around the country it was refurbished and donated to the Museum by Cranfield University.

Messerschmitt Me 163 fact file

Crew: 1
Max speed: 1060 km/h
Length: 5.98m
Height: 2.75m
Wingspan:
 9.33m
Engine: 1 x Walker HWK 109-509 A-2 liquid fuel rocket
On display: Military Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Komet

Above: Messerschmitt Me 163 in the Military Hangar.

Moraine Saulnier MS505a Criquet

Renowned for its incredible short take-off performance, the Fieseler Fi156 'Storch' (Stork) first flew in 1936 and was widely used by the German military in various roles, including liaison, air ambulance and battlefield reconnaissance during the Second World War. In a design feature rare for land-based aircraft, the Storch’s wings could be folded back along the fuselage, allowing it to be carried on a trailer or even towed slowly behind a vehicle. The long legs of the main landing gear contained oil-and-spring shock absorbers that compressed on landing, allowing the plane to set down almost anywhere.

Our Criquet (Locust) was produced after the war by French manufacturer Morane Saulnier, following the Storch design. It saw service with l’Armee de l' Air in French Indo-China until their forced evacuation of the region. After a host of civilian owners, including a Belgian collector who restored it in its current colours, the aircraft flew into East Fortune in 1982.

Criquet fact file

Crew: 2
Max speed: 175km/h
Length: 9.9m
Height: 3.1m
Wingspan:
 14.3m
Engine: 1 x Argus AS 10 aircooled inverted V8 engine
On display: Restoration Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Post-war military aircraft

Avro Anson G-APHV

The Anson first flew in March 1935 and entered service with the RAF as a reconnaissance aircraft. In its day it represented leading edge technology, and was the first RAF twin-engine aircraft to boast a retractable undercarriage. To operate its landing gear, early Ansons required a hand crank to be manually turned no less than 140 times by the pilot prior to landing.

Our Avro Anson, currently being restored, is a C.19, very different in appearance from the original military Mk. I aircraft used by the RAF during the Second Word War. Just over 250 C.19 Ansons were built. Our aircraft was given the civil aircraft registration G-APHV, but originally had the military serial VM360.

Avro Anson fact file

Crew: 3-4
Max speed: 303km/h
Length: 12.88m
Wingspan: 17.22m
Height: 3.99m
Powerplant: 2 x Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah radial engines
On display: Civil Aviation, Hangar 2, National Museum of Flight

Letov S-103

The USSR's first operational sweptwing fighter, the MiG-15, was built in vast numbers and became the Warsaw Pact's standard fighter. Designed around British jet engines, the MiG-15 first flew in 1947 powered by a Rolls Royce Nene engine. Despite a superior performance to its Western counterparts, the MiG suffered more combat losses, mainly due to the inadequate training of its pilots.

Our Letov S-103 is an example of one of over 3,000 MiG-15s built under licence in Czechoslovakia and Poland. It served with the Ostravan Air Regiment, named after the town of Ostrava. It arrived by road to the National Museum of Flight from the Czech Republic in 1993.

Letov S-103 fact file

Crew: 1 pilot
Main equipment: 2 x 100 kg bombs, 2 underwing hardpoints
Max speed: 1,075 km/h
Length: 10.11m
Height: 3.7m
Wingspan: 10.08m
Powerplant: 1 × Klimov VK-1 turbojet
On display: Military Aviation Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Mig Wallace

Above: Letov S-103 in the Military Hangar.

Avro Vulcan B.2A

A third of Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent, 'the V-Force' of the Fifties and Sixties, the Vulcan was the world's first delta winged bomber when it first flew in 1952. Carrying an internal warload of 21,000lbs, the nuclear role was enhanced with the carriage of the Blue Steel air-launched missile from 1963 to 1967. Due for retirement in 1982, the Falklands War was an operational swan song for the Vulcan.

Deployed in the suppression of enemy air defences role, our Vulcan, XM597, is one of only two used in anger. She made the headlines when, due to a fractured in-flight refuelling probe, the Vulcan diverted to Rio de Janeiro. After seven days internment the aircraft and crew were released. On the nose can be seen two mission markings and a Brazilian flag commemorating her unscheduled stopover. XM597 flew into East Fortune in 1984.

Avro Vulcan fact file

Crew: 5
Main equipment: Blue Steel air launch missile
Max speed: 1,040 km/h at altitude and 912km/h cruising
Length: 29.59 m
Height: 8m
Wingspan: 30.3m
Powerplant: 4 × Bristol Siddeley Olympus 200-series, 301

On display: In the grounds of the National Museum of Flight

Vulcan Mission Markings

Above: Close-of Avro Vulcan mission markings.

Blackburn Buccaneer S.2B

The last design by Blackburn Aviation in a long line of naval aircraft, the NA 39 was a low-level, carrier-based nuclear attack aircraft, first flying in 1958. Named 'Buccaneer' in 1960, it was characterised by its 'area rule' or 'coke bottle'-waisted fuselage, designed to improved airflow over the airframe at high speed. 

Our Buccaneer, XT288, was built for the Royal Navy as an S.2 but was modified to S.2B by the removal of the internal weapons bay and the installation of a bulged fuel tank; all weapons were carried externally. She was brought by the Museum from an Elgin based scrap merchant in 1994. 

Blackburn Buccaneer fact file

Crew: 2 pilot and observer
Main equipment: Martel anti-radar or anti-shipping missile
Max speed: 1,074 km/h at 60m
Length: 19.33m
Height: 4.97m
Wingspan: 13.41m
Powerplant: 2 x Rolls-Royce Spey Mk 101 turbofans
On display: Military aviation hangar, National Museum of Flight

Bucaneer2

Above: Blackburn Buccaneer in the Military aviation hangar.

English Electric Lightning F.2A

A truly evocative aircraft, the Lightning was derived from Britain's first supersonic jet, the English Electric P.1, and became the first supersonic fighter in RAF service. Possessing an astonishing climb rate of 12,000 metres in three minutes and a maximum speed of 2,100 km/h, the Lightning's biggest drawback was poor endurance. The Lightning was in service with the RAF until 1988, supplementing the Phantoms introduced to replace it.

Our Lightning, XN776, was built as an F2 and modified to an F.2A, which brought it to a similar standard as the ultimate version, the F.6, but with the option of four 30mm cannon in the nose. It is displayed in the colours of RAF 92 squadron, based at RAF Gutersloh, Germany, with whom it served until 1977. It was refurbished for display by the crews from RAF Leuchars and was gifted to the Museum in 1982.

Lightning fact file

Crew: Single-seater fighter
Main equipment: 2 De Havilland Firestreak or 2 Hawker Siddeley Red Top missiles
Max speed: Over 2,100 km/h
Length: 16.8m
Height: 5.97m
Wingspan: 10.6m
Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Avon Avon 211R engines
On display: Military hangar, National Museum of Flight

Nimrod XV241

The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR1/MR2 was developed and built in the United Kingdom. It was an extensive modification of the de Havilland Comet, the world's first jet airliner. The Nimrod was a Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft, with anti-submarine warfare, maritime surveillance and anti-surface warfare capabilities. It served with the RAF from the early 1970s until March 2010.

Our Nimrod XV241 was decommissioned at RAF Kinloss in 2010. After being dismantled on 7 February 2011, the front fuselage arrived at National Museum of Flight shortly afterwards. You can read more about the Nimrod XV241 here.

Nimrod fact file

Crew: 13
Main equipment: Sonobuoys, radar, magnetic and acoustic detection equipment, torpedoes, bombs, depth charges, Sidewinder self-defence missiles
Max speed: 925kph
Length: 38.63m
Height: 9m
Wingspan: 35m
Powerplant: 4 x Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans
On display: Civil aviation hangar

Actual Nms Section

Above: Front section of Nimrod aircraft.

Civil aircraft

De Havilland Comet 4C

The DH.106 was the first jet powered passenger airliner, manufactured by de Havilland, Herfortdshire. The Comet 1 prototype first flew in July 1949, and featured an aerodynamically clean design, a pressurised fuselage and large square windows. Yet a series of crashes shattered both the Comet and the UK's hopes of being the leading nation in passenger airline market. By 1959, when the ultimate version, the Comet 4C, was produced, the Boeing's 707 and Douglas DC 8 had taken the lead in overseas sales and prestige.

Our Comet 4C was one of the last to see service. G-BDIX was initially built for RAF Transport Command as the CometC4.XR399. Retired from RAF service as their last passenger-carrying Comet in 1975, the aircraft was sold on to Dan-Air, who retired her in 1980.  She was the last Comet to fly in commercial colours when she flew from Lasham, Hampshire to East Fortune in September 1981.

Comet fact file

Crew: 2 pilots, flight engineer and radio operator/navigator
Passenger capacity: typically 119 passengers
Cruising speed: 840 km/h
Cruise altitude:
13,000 m
Length: 34m
Height: 8.99m
Wingspan: 35m
Engines: 4 x Rolls-Royce Avon MK 524 turbo jet engines
On display: Outside at National Museum of Flight

Comet

Above: Comet at the National Museum of Flight.

Twin Pioneer

The rugged 'Twin Pin' was the second design from Prestwick-based company Scottish Aviation to achieve production. A short take-off and landing (STOL) general purpose transport aircraft, it had a promising future until the second prototype crashed, putting off potential buyers. Only 89 examples were built, with the biggest customer being the RAF, though orders for limited numbers were received from various countries around the world that recognised the aircraft's capabilities.

Our Twin Pin served with the RAF as XM961 in Borneo and was eventually bought by civilian company Flight One at Staverton Airport, which had a small fleet of Twin Pioneers for aerial survey work. It was sold to the Museum in 1982 after another aircraft was blown into it when parked during a gale.

Twin Pioneer fact file

Crew: 2, a pilot and co-pilot.
Capacity: Up to 13 passengers or 900kg of cargo
Length: 13.8m
Height: 3.7m
Wingspan: 23.33m
Engines: 2 x Alvis Leonides piston engines
On display: Civil Aviation Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Dsc03962

Above: Front end of Twin Pioneer aircraft.

Britten-Norman Islander

The firm of Britten-Norman was established on the Isle of Wight in 1953 to convert aircraft for agricultural use. Their first aircraft design, the BN-1F, failed to attract interest and only the prototype was built. The second aircraft, the BN-2 Islander, has become the best-selling commercial aircraft produced in Western Europe, with over 1,200 built.

Our Islander, G-BELF, was first registered on 13 January 1977 and started its flying career with an air taxi firm in Germany. It was later sold to Atlantic Air Transport before being operated by parachute clubs in England and Scotland. It was donated to the Museum by George Cormack of Cormack Aircraft Services Ltd and has been painted in the colours of an aircraft operated by the Scottish Air Ambulance Service in recognition of the contribution of this service to life in Scotland.

Britten-Norman Islander fact file

Crew: One or two pilots
Capacity: Up to nine passengers
Length: 11m
Height: 4m
Wingspan: 15m
Max speed: 270km/h
On display:
Hangar 2, Civil Aviation Hangar, National Museum of Flight

Norman Islander1

 Above: Britten-Norman Islander aircraft.

In this section

From the shop