Imperial War Museum planes at Duxford

Seeing Concorde at Imperial War Museum Duxford

It’s not often that N is so complimentary about a day out, but Imperial War Museum at Duxford shot right up to the top of his day’s out list.  On a recent stay in Cambridge we headed to Duxford the morning after our stay.

I’ve never been to Duxford before – it’s basically a lot of large hangars and warehouse buildings filled with aeroplanes, most with a war theme.  I hadn’t realised how large it was either – we stayed about 3 hours, and covered 4 of the display buildings, but there was plenty more to see if we came back again.

Imperial War Museum planes at Duxford

Tickets at Imperial War Museum Duxford

There are different entry options, with annual passes and family day tickets popular. We paid excluding gift aid (this is added on top of the price, rather than them claiming off the ticket cost which winds me up), and it cost around £28 for the 2 of us.  If you pay in advance online you can get 10% off.

duxford entrance
duxford plan

The aircraft

We started off in Airspace building. Here there are missiles, and so many different planes to explore. Not only on the ground, but hanging from the ceilings so you can get really close to them.  There are several you can go into and there’s someone to ask questions who’ll tell you about the history of the plane – we checked out the cargo Yorke plane. Then started queuing for Concorde to open at 10.30. 

overlooking plane displays
Yorke plane cockpit

The Concorde testing history is on display and is interesting to read. My mum and dad used to be in air traffic control, and my mum said they went out to watch the first Concorde flight so I really wanted the chance to get on board.  The one at Duxford was a test plan so you get to see all the test equipment and emergency solutions when you get on board. It’s really narrow compared to the planes you’re used to, but amazing to get to see it.

model concord
looking down at concorde
test seats on conrcorde
corncorde cockpit

Other than Concorde, there’s also Lancaster Bombers, Spitfires and helicopters, from the UK and abroad.

navy helicopter
fighter plane

We decided to head up to the learning areas where you can walk alongside/above the displayed planes. It’s amazing to see them all on display – there’s a map to show which plane is displayed where, as well as having boards around the museum.

interactive displays at duxford

There are so many interactive displays, talking about the history of aircraft and flying, as well as the physics and engineering side. N loved having a go at creating thrust, working out the best shape for flight and more.  We had to wait a couple of times for other children to move off a machine, but it didn’t take long.

timeline of flight at IWM
testing out different flap shapes
interactive flying

To get to the other buildings is a bit of a walk, so dress up warm in winter because the wind is cold and it’s all open and exposed. We didn’t make it up to the American Air Museum, but did check out 3 other buildings, including Battle of Britain and the workshop areas. The latter you could watch people working and see planes that were being restored.  We even saw the Sally B – the only remaining airworthy B17 Flying Fortress plane kept flying as a memorial to British and American forces (and used in the Memphis Belle film).

plane with fold up wings
man working on a plane
memphis belle Sally B plane

We spent quite a bit of time in the Battle of Britain building, looking around the videos and displays showing information about the Battle of Britain, about evacuation out to the countryside, and the blitz of London and other cities around the UK. It’s quite relevant for N because his school is performing a VE day themed play in May and he knows a bit about local war history and airfield.

battle of britain solder and plane
spitfire plane

As well as planes, there are also a few helicopters peppered around the buildings, and salvaged submarine parts or missiles.  There’s plenty to see and find out about even if you’re not a big war or plane fan.

What else is there at Imperial War Museum Duxford?

Apart from the displays, for under 9s there’s an aeroplane themed playground with some interesting equipment in. There is also a restaurant and café. The café was packed when we wanted to get some lunch, so decided we’d go on somewhere else rather than queue and not have somewhere to sit. We weren’t sure if the restaurant was open at that point, so didn’t try there.

plane play area at Duxford

We also walked past a plane simulator ride which was an extra cost. There are also pleasure flights run out of Duxford.  Through the year there are also events like the Air Show, so it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s on.

As we left, I asked N how he’d enjoyed the visit.  His answer ‘probably the best place we’ve been to’. High praise from a usually very fussy visitor, so if you’re in the area, IWM Duxford is definitely worth a visit.

Check out our previous visit to Imperial War Museum Manchester

Have you ever been? Are there other Imperial War Museums you’ve really enjoyed?

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