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RAF Cosford

Through the gates to a working airbase and a huge air museum.

For the full story behind this tour, here's more about the jets and props of the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford.

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Training

RAF Cosford is still a working airbase, mostly for training. Here a crew works on what I think is a SEPECAT Jaguar.

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C-130

Anyone else have the MicroMachines version of this? One of my favorite planes, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, or as the Brits call the version you see here, the C.3.

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Longevity

Like the B-52, the C-130/C.1 was designed in the 1950s, and other than some updates, is still basically the same aircraft that flew then. Actually, in the B-52's case, they're literally the planes that flew then. The C-130 is still in production.

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Stretch

To convert a C.1 into a C.3, the fuselage is stretched by adding "plugs." You can see one of them here, aft of the door.

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Onboard

The hatch was open and there were no signs so I climbed in.

Yeah, I wasn't supposed to. I received a forceful and oddly bewildered "You're not supposed to be in here."

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Tanker

This Vickers VC10 was in service for 48 years. First as a military transport, then as a mid-air refueling tanker.

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Britannia

The Bristol Britannia is one of the last large, propeller airliners. Its development took too long, and soon the Comet and 707 had taken to the air: the beginning of the jet age.

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Air museum

One of the coolest looking hangars of any air museum I've been to. That's the National Cold War Exhibition hangar, which we'll get to later.

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Nimrod

The portly Hawker Siddeley Nimrod was a highly modified version of the de Havilland Comet.

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Test Flight hangar

The first hangar is called Test Flight and features various prototype jet aircraft from the early days to the modern era.

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188 at 1,200mph

The high-speed research aircraft, the Bristol 188, looks like a cross between a F-104 and an SR-71.

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Modular

To test different wing angles and tail designs, the Short SB.5 featured a modular design so engineers could swap out sections easily.

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Pre-Harrier

The Hawker Siddeley Kestrel was the prototype of the Harrier "Jump Jet."

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Hunting

The Hunting H.126 could fly as slow as 32mph/51.5kph due to its blown flaps, which it tested on over 100 test flights.

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TSR-2

This big guy is the BAC TSR-2 was a Mach 2 strike and reconnaissance aircraft. It was cancelled while still in the prototype stage.

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Tandom and prone

The Gloster Meteor F8 (Prone) is an odd idea. It was built to assess any advantages that might be gained in dealing with G-forces -- while the pilot was lying down. It never made it past the test stage.

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Dual propulsion

The Saunders-Roe SR.53 had two engines. A rocket engine to get it to altitude quickly, and then a turbojet to fly around.

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Fly-by-wire

This SEPECAT Jaguar was used to develop the fly-by-wire system used on the far more modern Eurofighter Typhoon (and similar to pretty much all modern aircraft).

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Pre-Eurofigher

Speaking of the Eurofighter, this is the BAe EAP, its prototype. I love canards.

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Wee little thing

The aptly named Gnat, nestled under the wing of the big Avro Lincoln.

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Big prop bomber

The Lincoln, develolped from the Lancaster, was the last British bomber to use propellers.

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Still a big bomb bay

The Lincoln could carry 14 1,000-pound bombs.

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Almost nemesis

Though the Lincoln didn't see combat in WWII, it was bound for the Pacific theater and would have fought these, the Kawasaki Ki-100. The war ended before that happened.

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Mossie

The Mosquito, one of the three staples of every British aviation museum. And why not? This is of the last-gen TT.35 variety, which went out of service in 1963.

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Rocket glider

The tiny Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet. It's probably smaller than your car. They were rocket-powered to get them up to the incoming Allied bombers quickly. Then the idea was to glide back down and land on their single skid. That was the theory, anyway.

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PBY

Another of my favorite planes, the PBY Catalina.

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Safety orange

This specifically is a PBY-6A, which was the last generation built, and included a number of changes, including the radome above the cockpit.

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Spitfire

In the foreground is a first-generation Spitfire.

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National Cold War Exhibition

An English Electric Lightning hangs from the ceiling, a fantastic sight in a hangar full of amazing planes.

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Fighters and bombers

Up top, a Gloster Meteor, below, a Vickers Valiant. Between them, the massive tail of the Handley Page Victor.

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Vulcan neck pinch

Inside the Vulcan's bomb bay. It could hold 21 1,000-pound bombs, or one of the nuclear variety.

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MiGs

Why NATO didn't call the MiG-15 the "Guppy" I'll never understand.

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Exhibits galore

There's more than just planes here: tanks, APCs, rockets, missiles, helicopters and displays about the Cold War.

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Vulcan domination

A better look at the huge Hawker Siddeley (Avro) Vulcan.

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Props, too

Down there you can see an Avro York, a Short Belfast, a Handley Page Hastings and more.

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Pave Low

A Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low. This particular helicopter served in Iraq until 2008.

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Cargo and more

The MH-53 was a "Combat Search and Rescue" helicopter but often served other roles, like delivering troops into combat.

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Car & culture

I liked this display a lot. It was a comparison of the cars available in Britain (the Mini), West Germany (the Beetle), and East Germany (the Sachsenring Trabant).

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APC

A Soviet BMP-1 light tank/armored personnel carrier.

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AAM from APC

Actually built by British Aerospace, this Tracked Rapier is basically one of their armored personnel carriers converted to shoot anti-aircraft missiles instead of hauling people.

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Say 'no' to square windows

The last hangar, Hangar 1. It's a vast, open space with several large airplanes, including this, the world's first jet airliner. The Comet was ahead of its time. It also had square windows, which turned out to be a bad idea. This particular aircraft was originally sold to Air France, but after conversion to a Comet 1XB (round windows, a few other changes), it was given to Britain's Ministry of Supply and converted to a flying laboratory.

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Tonight... James builds an aeroplane

James May, some engineers, and some local school children, built this Spitfire replica in this hangar for his BBC show "James May's Toy Stories."

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Varsity

Some restoration/maintenance on a Vickers Varsity.

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Drei-motor

A Junkers Ju 52, built and popular before, during and after the war.

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Engines

The smaller engine on the left is actually from the Concorde prototype, a Rolls Royce Olympus 593 turbojet capable of Mach 2. The much bigger turbofan on the right is a Rolls Royce RB 211. Interestingly, these engines are from roughly the same era (1969 and 1972, respectively), and generate roughly equal amounts of thrust (though efficient at much different speeds). The RB 211 has been used in a variety of aircraft, including 747 and 767s.

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New favorite

I had neither seen nor heard of this plane before (the big one in the back), but I love its bulbous weirdness. It's an Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy.

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Cargo hold

The twin booms made for easy access to the cargo hold. The Argosy could carry up to 29,000 pounds/13,154 kg of cargo.

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Goodbye

Hello to the big nose, goodbye to the big museum.

For the full story behind this tour, here's more about the jets and props of the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford.

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