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A tour of the Royal Air Force Museum

The RAF Museum London is just a short tube ride outside the city itself. Warplanes from every era of flight, from WWI to present day, fill its hangars. Here's a full tour.

Geoffrey Morrison Contributor
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
3 min read
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Opened in 1972, the RAF Museum fills five hangars with warplanes from the past 100 years: restored WWI fighters, seaplanes, WWII fighters and bombers, and jet aircraft from the Cold War's earliest days, to the Harrier and the F-35.

Join me on a special-access tour through the hundreds of planes, engines, missiles, bombs, and more at this incredible museum.

A tour of the Royal Air Force Museum (pictures)

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Hendon Aerodrome -- home to the museum -- is near the end of the Northern Line, about 40 minutes north of London. What was once a sprawling complex on the edge of the city is now surrounded by the suburbs that naturally creep from any metropolis with time.

Presuming you don't rent a car on your visit to London, the easiest way to get to the RAF Museum is slapping a few extra pounds on your Oyster Card (do get one of those), and making the long ride up to Colindale (not Hendon Central). It's a short walk to the museum, and the way is pretty well-labeled.

The first hanger, called the Milestones of Flight has highlights from 100 years of aviation, from the gondola from a blimp, through WWI and WWII aircraft, all the way to the Eurofighter Typhoon, Harrier, and even a mockup of an F-35. One of my favorite planes, the de Havilland Mosquito, is here too. It's not a big space, but there are balconies so you can see the planes from multiple angles. It's a fantastic start to the museum.

But then you pass through a covered walkway to the Bomber Hall. I've been to a lot of air museums, and few have the space to devote to bombers (which I love). As you enter, in the distance you can't help but see the massive Avro Lancaster. I'd never realized how huge these are, making the B-17 and B-24 nearby seem tiny. Elsewhere here are a B-25, a WWI Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b, the huge delta-wing girth of the Avro Vulcan, and more.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Attached is the Historic Hanger, which has an incredible mix of aircraft from all eras of flight: Spitfire and Southhampton, Tornado and Thunderbolt, Phantom and Provost, and many, many more. There are even some helicopters.

In the Battle of Britain Hall, across the parking lot, there are some dioramas depicting life during the Blitz. Then you get to see the legendary Spitfire and Hurricane, and the infamous Stuka and He 111. There's even a V1 and a V2. In the middle is the huge Short Sunderland flying boat, which you can walk through.

Lastly is the Grahame-White Factory, closed to the public as it undergoes a remodel focused on the 100 year anniversary of WWI. I got special access, and was able to get up close to a Sopwith Triplane and Camel, a Albatros DVa, and more.

While the Pacific Aviation Museum is incredible, the RAF Museum had many planes I'd never seen before, and many that are the only ones in existence. If you're in London, definitely head up to Hendon, especially since you can't beat the entrance price: free.

As well as covering audio and display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips and more.

Also check out Budget Travel for Dummies, his travel book, and his bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines. You can follow him on Instagram and YouTube