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RAF Cosford 'Open Cockpit' Night 2011

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Saturday May 14th , saw the RAF museum at Cosford in shropshire, open its doors for a special evening event. The ‘Open cockpit night’, was part of a nationwide weekend of events named Night at a museum. The RAF kindly agreed to open the cockpits on some of its aircraft at the museum to be viewed by a limited number of the general public. Cosford itself is still an active RAF base, but is also home to an impressive collection of aircraft.

In all a total of 12 cockpits were open to viewing, although the Vickers Valiant could only be viewed from steps next to the door. This is the worlds only complete Valiant and XD818 was also the first aircraft to drop Britain’s 1st H bomb. Cosford has the distinction of being the only place you can see all 3 V Bombers together. Another of the V bomber force was also open to viewing. Vulcan B.1 XA893 is a cockpit section which has been modified to allow the public to access and view the interior. This particular Vulcan was used for Blue steel missile tests. The cockpit has had the rear seats and some of the floor cutaway to make viewing better.
An aircraft which attracted quite a bit of attention was The Handley Page Hastings TG511. This aircraft is complete and has had a very busy life. It was active during the Berlin airlift and was also used in the training Vulcan radar operators. The aircraft is displayed with this equipment still fitted. Another aircraft of this type opened up, was Avro York TS798/ G-AGNV. The cockpit on this aircraft is incomplete but is still a great exhibit. Initially delivered to the RAF, it seems to have been in there hands for a couple of months before moving on to fly with BOAC. Amazingly, there are photos of this particular aircraft being loaded up with elephants! A true heavy lifter!!
Also opened up were a Jet provost, buccaneer, Hunter, Phantom and an ex Red Arrows Gnat. For £10 you could have your photo taken in the Gnat wearing a Red Arrows bone dome. Another aircraft which drew plenty of attention was the huge Shorts Belfast. This exhibit, complete with Land rover stored inside, was used by the Air force for a total of 9,229 hours. Unfortunately the Belfast was not a very successful aircraft. An initial order of 30 was reduced to 10. The aircraft earned itself some unfortunate nicknames such as ‘slug, belslow and the drag master’ due to severe drag problems. This aircraft is immense in size and is in superb condition.
Cosford has so many rare types on display , and I think everyone who attended the open cockpit evening felt privileged to be able to see the insides of these aircraft. I’d like to thank all of the museum staff, for making the evening a huge success. Their knowledge of the aircraft was truly amazing and they were only to happy to talk about them. The museum is going to run another open cockpit evening on September 17th 2011. I can highly recommend the visit, you won’t be disappointed!
List of aircraft ‘opened up’

Jet Provost T3A XM351
Vickers Valiant XD818
Blackburn Buccaneer XN962
McDonell Douglas Phantom XV591
Shorts Belfast XR371
Handley Page Hastings TG511
Avro York TS798
Hawker Siddeley Andover XS639
Folland Gnat XN977
Avro Vulcan B.1 XA 893
Hawker Hunter F.4
Junkers JU/52 G-AFAP

Review & Photos by Neil Darby