About us - more detail
The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, recognised as East Anglia's Aviation
Heritage Centre, is run entirely by volunteers, with one paid staff member. It
is a Registered Charity (No. 281804), a Limited Company registered in England
and Wales (No. 1487622), and an Accredited Museum (No. 1938).
The collection early in 2014 comprised 66 aircraft (including cockpits),
and more than 30,000 smaller artefacts. 11 aircraft and 6 cockpits are displayed
outdoors but everything else is on view within themed buildings for the Royal Observer Corps No. 6
Group, the 446th (H) Bomb Group USAAF, RAF Bomber Command, RAF Air-Sea Rescue &
Coastal Command, and local aviation from the pioneer years to the present day.
There are also numerous exhibitions on special subjects including WWII Decoy
Crews, Boulton & Paul Norwich, RAF Link Trainers, aerial photography,
radio/radar/electronic counter measures, the Home Front, and Luftwaffe
wreckology. Facilities include a Shop, Archive & Library, snack area (NAAFI),
picnic tables, and a raised boardwalk to the river through a Willow plantation -
the Adair Walk.
The idea for an aviation museum to preserve and promote the region’s aviation
history was initially conceived by half a dozen aviation enthusiasts in the
Bungay area late in 1972. Following coverage in the local press, the first
public meeting of The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Society was held early the
following year, attracting 25 attendees. The first display premises to be
used were a Nissen hut behind the Flixton Post Office but within a year it
became obvious that this could not be a permanent home as 5,500 people had
visited. Jim Patterson, an ex-World War One pilot, ran the Post Office at
the time and was as surprised as the rest of the Society at the interest shown.
He understandably had reservations about so many people invading his back garden
as he lost most of his lettuces that year under trampling feet! It took
another couple of years before members’ efforts were rewarded with larger
After considering other sites for relocation (including Seething Control Tower,
Tibenham and Ellough), Andrew Gilham, then landlord of Flixton's pub - The Buck
Inn - provided the solution (Alan Breeze, the popular singer with the Billy
Cotton Band had been an earlier owner). Andrew offered the use of two
small meadows to the rear of the pub together with a barn. The offer was
accepted, although much effort and hard work was needed to make the venue
suitable for housing the displays and storage. The enthusiasm and spirit
of the members ensured that the job was completed in time for the new facility
to be opened to the public on 24th April 1975.
By 1978, the Society had changed its name to The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation
Museum (N&SAM), and Wing Commander Ken Wallis, who developed the Wallis Autogyro
and built "Little Nellie" famously flown by him when doubling as James
Bond in the film "You Only Live Twice", had become our President.
In 1984, the Museum purchased almost 8 acres of meadow behind the Buck Inn and
commenced a steady, and continuing, programme of erecting buildings to
accommodate the collection. Sadly, the plot had never been part of the
Bungay/Flixton airfield so was without any aviation significance. The main
hangar came from Matlaske in North Norfolk, the 1937 Boulton & Paul Hangar was
rescued from Ipswich Airport in 2000 with the help of the local council, and the
Ken Wallis Hall was built and opened in 2010. Most of the buildings around
our site had an aviation-linked usage of one sort or another before we received
them. Capital projects such as these require financial support from grants
of course, and then we usually need to match-fund from our reserves. Two
major bequests were received a few years ago, and these totally unexpected
boosts to income proved to be invaluable - it is regretted that we never
actually knew the individuals so can only presume they had been visitors.
We are sometimes approached by family members of deceased volunteers and
visitors to allow tree-planting in memory of their loved-ones, and an avenue of
remembrance has evolved along the Adair Walk.
The Museum's collecting policy in the early days was simple - if it was
available and we could both afford and accommodate it, we would have it.
In recent years this has become much more focused to the Anglia region.
Aircraft, equipment, uniforms, engines, models, records and a myriad of other
artefacts, have been steadily acquired over the years, almost entirely by the
generosity of donors. The range of exhibits is now extremely wide and cannot
fail to be of interest to the most discerning of visitors - no matter taste or
interest. Museum Chairman Ian Hancock displays his own aircraft at Flixton on a
permanent basis, a few other aircraft are on loan, but the majority were
purchased/acquired by the Museum in the early days - often in poor condition.
Owing to the need to preserve space for car parking, the opportunity to add new
buildings is now very limited but we do have thoughts on some modest expansion
in due course, to include education and meeting rooms. Unfortunately, our
location makes it difficult to purchase extra land immediately adjacent to our
site. Our rural location, however, in the picturesque Waveney Valley does
provide a very tranquil and attractive village setting.
We are often asked how we survive in the absence of making an admission charge -
we have never charged for entry. Careful budgeting and monitoring by the
Trustees at regular review meetings ensure that the income from light
refreshments, the shop, bricabrac, and donations is wisely allocated and we do
not overstretch ourselves. Consequently, wages, utilities, site
maintenance and other essential costs must come before restoration and
conservation projects. We are exceptionally fortunate, however, that our
volunteers possess almost all of the skills required for us to operate as a
successful museum/visitor centre without going outside. It is also a
measure of the success and appeal of the Museum that the public has always been
generous enough to keep it going - with circa 40,000 visitors a year enjoying
what we have on offer.
Other pages in this website expand upon what we have and what we do, and new
subjects will be added in due course.