Hello and welcome to the New Gatwick Aviation Museum.
The opening of a new building in which we can house some of our classic aircraft collection has been a long time coming. Sadly, primarily due to planning restrictions, we are unable to provide a building large enough to bring all of our airframes inside and provide the facilities expected. However, from this moment on a new chapter in this museums history has begun.
After careful thought and in common with modern thinking we have decided to display the aircraft with a minimum of related artefacts around them. Over the past year or so our volunteers have made numerous visits to other museums to “see how they do it”. The overwhelming view was that the minimalist approach was the look we preferred. We do have related items nearby to show more of the aircraft than just the airframe. This has caused us some problems, we have a large amount of “stuff” and it seemed natural to show it all, plus it also means we don't have to find somewhere to store it. Our intention is to follow the example of the major national collections and rotate our artefacts on a regular basis, thus ensuring that the displays are not static. It means that visitors who come back after their initial visit will find something of interest that wasn't previously there.
At the time of opening the museum is not the “finished article” we still have much to decide, to display and to add to the initial opening state. Any feedback, comments etc are very welcome. We are also on a steep learning curve; we have no real experience of running the museum other than in a very ad hoc, casual manner as per our previous openings. We are trying hard to present and operate the museum in a professional and business-like manner and hope that you will bear with us as we introduce new systems and offerings. We may sometimes get it wrong, but we'll certainly be working hard to get it right! Probably the most important factor in preserving old aircraft, such as ours, is to keep them inside in a stable and controlled environment. It was very clear really early on just how being inside benefited them. The prime example is the de Havilland Venom with its cockpit constructed of plywood. This had started to de-laminate as the weather and water got into the wood. Within a few days of being inside it had dried out without any help from us and is now stable and ready to be treated. Most of the aircraft have been outside for more than 20 years and they showed those years in a numbers of ways. For those that know something of our history, they will probably be aware that the collection was much larger just a couple of years ago. It was reduced for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a show of faith to the planning authorities that we were very mindful of the issues regarding the aircraft being outside in a green belt area. We reduced the impact by disposing of ten aircraft. We sold off less relevant airframes, duplicates and artefacts that added no particular value. Also just as important was the assessment that with only a small but dedicated group of volunteers and quite few aircraft, we simply could not prevent the steady deterioration that all of the airframes were experiencing by living outside. Better then to try to ensure their survival by passing them on to other organisations that would have the resources to preserve or ideally restore them.
The museum is now run as a charitable trust under the rules and guidance of the charities commission. The board of five trustees decides policy and the strategic framework for the museum. All but one of the museum staff are volunteers who give what time they can to help to run the museum. The only exception is the museum manager who is a full time paid member of staff.
We like to allow our visitors to get close to the aircraft; there are no barriers just some small guidelines to help prevent soft people colliding with hard metal objects. We would ask that you do not or allow others to climb on the aircraft or to damage them. The eventual aim is that all of them will be capable of running their engines and some systems. Due to recent legislation we are unable to offer access to any cockpits or internal areas on the aircraft. With the single exception of our largest exhibit the Avro Shackleton. It's also a good idea to prevent children from running around, although we don't wish to curb their enthusiasm and we have a special non-slip coating on the floor, running around aircraft is a recipe for accidents. At the moment the museum can only offer very basic amenities, during the next phases of development this will addressed. We would like to say a big thank you for visiting us today. By your visit you have played a small but vital role in helping us to preserve for current and future generations a part of Britain’s aviation heritage. With your help and our skills we believe that we can offer an important resource for those with an interest in aviation and perhaps more vitally, those who intend to make a career in aviation. One of our charities founding principles is to educate and teach the younger generations.
We trust that you have enjoyed your visit today and hope that you will come and see us again.
Over the coming months we will be putting on some special days, sometimes in concert with other organisations. For enthusiasts a number of engine runs are planned along with associated activity. Details of these events can be found on our web site or follow us via Facebook.
Trustees, manager and all volunteers at Gatwick Aviation Museum.