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2007 was one of the worst years to-date for outdoor working, owing to rain very often on the days most of our volunteers’ regularly attend.  The new entrance road bridge was completed early in the year but general site maintenance was a headache with a lot of wet grass around, and work on those of our aircraft displayed outdoors was greatly reduced.  Fortunately, the minority of our airframes reside there, although they tend to be the larger ones.   Our Javelin FAW.9R did receive a lot of attention and a repaint, and over the Winter months the Sea Vixen FAW.1 was moved forward onto new concrete pads, and raised up on new axle stands.  The resident rabbit and mole population had caused the original pads to sink slightly after many years but the move provides a better view of this important type.  Similar work was carried out for the Super Sabre and both aircraft are on the list for repainting; the Mystere and T-33 have both been fitted with new nosewheel stands.  We are looking around for some working platforms to provide better access to the larger airframes, particularly the Valetta, plus perhaps a second-hand “cherrypicker” of sorts if in good order and not too expensive.

Our Guide Book is presently being updated by Bob Cossey for Easter - after only two years it is very out-of-date about our collection and what we are doing at Flixton.   Certainly our Archivist, Paddy Potter, has recorded a significant growth over this period in the number of items donated and aircraft acquired (total artefacts on display now top 23,000 and airframes total 60 including cockpits).  The full list of aircraft held is produced elsewhere in the website but 2007 saw the following arrive: a Belgian Hunter F6 cockpit; a Jet Provost T.3A, a MiG-15bis (Czech C-103), plus microlights: Eurowing Goldwing and Skycraft/Flylite Super Scout 250.  Owing to space restrictions we had to turn down some other offers.   We plan to repaint the MiG-15bis in dual Czech and Polish markings as a memorial to aircrew from these nations who escaped from enemy occupation but lost their lives serving with the RAF in WWII; the general public seems largely unaware of these sacrifices.  We are in need of a radio aerial pylon and a pitot to make the airframe look more complete - an engine would be nice too.  We also gained a Redifon Jet Provost simulator but will have to make up power packs.

Owing to leaks, it became necessary for Ken Huckle to design and construct a new roof for our old steel-framed workshop, which is around 10m square, plus install a new floor.  This gave the impetus for a thorough sort of items held under the heading of “it might come in handy” and several skips were filled as a result.  Spare aircraft components are now being examined and identified, to be held in a single storage building.   A major rewiring exercise has been going on in several buildings over several months by our “sparks” team led by Ivan Last.  Preparations for the proposed Ken Wallis Hall have been making steady progress since the design was changed so that a much larger structure is now possible.  Several generous donations have been received and, whilst grants are being pursued, we are having discussions with contractors for a mid-year start. 

The larger building will also house some of our larger non-aircraft exhibits, including perhaps the JP simulator, wind tunnel models, Shackleton Ward Room section, several Tornado fault-finding computer training screens, air transportable over-snow tracked vehicle, a missile display, the walk-in Canberra PR.3 cockpit reproduction presently under construction, and a WWII Mk1a Airborne Lifeboat (number MKVIII) flown by Warwicks.   We acquired the boat (a hull shell) from a Norfolk collector during the year, in derelict condition, and after due consideration set a budget for restoration work.  Our own collection of ASR drawings did not extend to providing information on a rebuild but, thanks to copies from the RAF Museum, very good results have been achieved by David Dawson.  Whilst original materials could not always be used, it now has a deck, gunwales, lockers, fittings and a mast; other missing components are being sourced or replicated.  Few of these early boats exist these days so it is pleasing to have one for display to illustrate another important section of RAF history.  Unfortunately, it is too big to place inside our ASR display building, which is already bursting at the seams with artefacts; we hope to extend this building this year to accommodate more small items and boat models.

The annual visitor total for the year was again just over 30,000, and special events during the year were well attended.  We run a number of annual events so these dates are pre-set for 2008 but we are happy to be approached by organisations interested in using our site especially on a Sunday - see the Events page on this site.  Vintage/veteran vehicle gatherings are particularly popular - having the Buck Inn next door is attractive for its good menu.  Flypasts by member Maurice Hammond in his Mustang, plus others, provide very welcome added attractions and demonstrate aircraft in their natural element - in the air.  Our President, Wing Commander Ken Wallis, often over-flies in one of his autogyros and undertakes aerial photography for us.  On event days he is usually surrounded by enthusiastic visitors, often viewing his James Bond “Little Nellie” example.  She is to be placed on loan, for a year from April, to the Imperial War Museum in London for static display within the proposed Ian Fleming exhibition - the creator of James Bond. 

My biography of Ken (“The Lives Of Ken Wallis”), the enlarged 4th Edition published in 2007, is on sale in our Shop and already heading for a reprint - there are a few copies left of a special “flown & signed” Limited Edition.   Ken was the subject of a documentary by NTV Moscow in October and we entertained a camera crew and reporter for a day.  Most of the filming took place in and above (using a helmet camera) Ken’s hangar at Reymerston Hall in Norfolk, with some footage at Flixton, and I provided some commentary on our Colditz glider for a different episode of the series.  They plan to return to feature the museum in a future episode of this aviation series.  We display Ken’s flyable replica of the “Wallbro” Monoplane, which he built in the 1970s, so this was of interest to them, plus our large collection generally.  The original “Wallbro” was constructed between 1908 and 1910 near Cambridge by his father and uncle.  It made a few hops before a storm wrecked its hangar and contents.  Sugg’s weekly ITV London programme also featured Ken early in February but reference to him surviving a parachute jump from a Wellington crash-landing in WWII brought a smile to Ken’s lips.   An official from Slovenia came to see us earlier in the year to gather information to aid the creation of a national aviation collection in his own country.  The value of volunteers’ support was emphasised! 

Our Education Officer - Pam Veale - has been particularly busy over recent months compiling Loan Boxes, filled with interesting and educational aviation items for local schools to examine, and organising their structured visits to the museum to study WWII artefacts.  Numerous hands-on gadgets have been made by Ray Kidd to help explain things such as Morse Code, Field telephones and airborne radios; the contents of a survival pack always fascinates the pupils.  Several members talk of their personal experiences as civilians surviving enemy bombs, and others of flying operations - we use the Valetta as a classroom for added interest.  Ray Allard explains the role of the ROC, David Wright speaks on the work of the ASR, and Alan Hague recalls the operations undertaken by the local 446th Bomb Group USAAF.  Our Link Trainer team led by Ray Kidd is on duty these days as a “flight” by the children is seen as the climax of the visit.  For the less adventurous, we have converted our fourth Link - a static ANT-18 - to take a computer screen with a flight simulation program. 

The Link units are located in our Link Room, which is intended to reflect Service training.  It is full of WWII and later items, many sectioned components, aerial targets, large-scale models of RAF training aircraft, plus a large collection of working gun sights for visitors to line up on aircraft silhouettes.   A display of Queen Bee components is being assembled at the moment and light entertainment is provided by a wartime R1155.  There was not enough room for our K Type Camera Training Gun so it is now sited near the Morse Key table in No.1 Hangar - blasting a plastic aircraft high in the roof via our laser sight modification attracts not just children; the fathers have to thoroughly test it first!    A very popular exercise has been to gather childhood memories of World War II from members and visitors for children to read - some of the authors are then on site to answer their questions.  We think that it is worthy of publication and this may happen later in the year.  Our website is regularly updated with new information by Lester Curtis, who also arranges dedicated Cub Scout days for them to gain their Air Activity badge.

Our new and large display of bombsights is an added attraction in the Bomber Command building, plus there has been an expansion of exhibits in the 446th Bomb Group building.  The ROC collection has also seen a modest increase in artefacts, and the planned expansion of the ASR collection is covered above.  A permanent task for some of us is to keep up with researching visitors’ queries, and the identification and captioning of artefacts for display.  Visitors appreciate being able to read about an item, and ask questions of members.   Very occasionally we learn that our information is incomplete and it is good to talk to someone with first-hand knowledge.  We find it very valuable to have a permanent “artist in residence” and our Joint Hon. Vice President - John Constable Reeve - performs this role to perfection.  If we need an oil or watercolour depicting an aircraft or event, a backdrop to a display, or an heraldic design applied, John can provide it at short notice if he is not undertaking a commission.   The aviation wall decorations in our ladies’ toilet are unique, albeit unsigned!

Display space is always a problem owing to the growth of our collection but owning our 7.5-acre site does make things easier when new buildings are called for.  Apart from what has been mentioned above, and other long-term development thoughts, we have nearly finished extending an area between two existing display rooms beyond the Shop - originally a linking corridor - to full building width.  Part of this new area will show Anderson and Morrison shelters, plus contemporary Home Front items, to cater for school visits in particular.  Huby Fairhead has already assembled a large display of household items relevant to a 1940s cottage and these bygones promote a lot of interest with children and adults alike.  Remember the tin bath on a Friday night?   Our site is not all dedicated to aviation - a couple of acres is a Willow plantation and a raised boardwalk provides a pleasant stroll down to the river Waveney.  Huby keeps an eye on this and provides identification of small plants that spring up in addition to the main caption boards covering birds, reptiles, etc.

Our Spitfire XVI fuselage, recreated from the original skin panels/components of TD248 when being returned to flying condition, is an ongoing project.  Whilst the cockpit interior is slowly gaining original instruments, a control column is being assembled by Ken Huckle from original and new components; rarity and cost prohibits this being entirely original.   If there is a generous person out there, however, ……….!  The wings and tail feathers of our restored Luton Major (G-APUG) are presently being cleaned and varnished by Derek Small in readiness for mounting in un-covered condition to show the method of construction - something few museums think of doing but is of great interest to visitors.  The missing undercarriage will be constructed from GA drawings in due course.  The Civil Air Patrol, Fairchild F24 C8F (NC16676) has not been advanced further apart from re-covering and painting both wings.  Re-stocking the cockpit of Lightning DB/F1 (XG329) is progressing and we are sticking to its one-time F.1 configuration as near as possible.   Missing instrument panels need to be remade and cockpit photographs were kindly supplied by RAF Cosford of the only other Development Batch complete example surviving in the UK (XG337); it is now suspended on high in the Cold War Exhibition. 

Our restored Pundit Light has almost gained back all its components, and new mudguards have been sourced.   The Civil Defence Signal Office (Small) has been inside for the Winter and retains much of its original interior.  This acts as a base for amateur radio activities, plus the annual gathering of VMARS members in May.  We have mounted it on a wheeled chassis for towing in the absence of a Thames Fordson lorry body being available.  

The three V-bomber cockpits on loan have not received much attention but our members have made new door-lock components for the Vulcan so that security can be restored and all equipment moved back inside.  Wheeled stands have been acquired by the owners of the Victor and Valiant, and the task of converting them to receive the cockpits is in our queue of jobs.  The Valiant will require a lot of work to seal the rear of the flight deck to make it secure and a walk-in exhibit.  All three cockpits are intended to be accessible by visitors at some future date.  

Whilst we can boast a large range of skills within our volunteers, there is always room to gain knowledge and the BAPC’s National Aviation Heritage Skills Initiative, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has produced an invaluable range of one-day courses; 24 of our volunteers had attended between one and six by the year-end.  These courses are accredited by City & Guilds and, whilst sitting a test paper is voluntary, 16 members gained a total of 51 Certificates between them.   The NAHSI team is quartered at Duxford.  We have a lot of contact with Duxford’s permanent staff and are always grateful for their willing support.  We are happy to reciprocate when called upon.

The year ahead should see the usual hive of activity, including a catch-up on aircraft painting, with us gaining both an enlarged display area and a large new display building, improved exhibit layouts, more exhibits, and a tidier site.  The jobs list doesn’t seem to reduce.

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