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Spitfires to Sea Hawks: Inside the Malta Aviation Museum

From historically significant WWII aircraft to notable examples from the jet age, the Malta Aviation Museum holds some beautiful aircraft. Here’s how they look.

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Geoffrey Morrison
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1 of 37 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Malta Aviation Museum

Near the village of Ta' Qali, the Malta Air Museum is a bit of a hidden gem. The de Havilland Vampire you see here, for example, is immaculate. 

For the full story behind this tour, check out Maltese falcons: An island museum full of beautiful aircraft.

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Sea Hawk

As well restored as the Vampire, this Sea Hawk sits right behind. 

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Trainer

Looking something like a kids toy, this Link Trainer was pretty cutting-edge for the 1930s.  

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Huey

Adjacent to the Vampire and Sea Hawk are a few odds and ends, like this UH-1. 

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AutoGiro!

Home-built and powered by a VW Beetle engine.

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C-47

First flown by the US Air Force in 1944, this C-47 dominates the small hanger, and lends an eerie aesthetic to the space.

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Resting

It's awaiting restoration. One of its restored sisters is in another hangar. 

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Parts and rec(lamation)

Pieces of several aircraft, also awaiting restoration. 

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Venom

That's an entire Sea Venom.

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Some assembly required

Probably not too hard to put back together, right? Sort of like Ikea furniture? 

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Pistons

This whole area had parts big and small, including electronics, engines pieces, even an old typewriter. 

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Main hangar

The main hangar houses the big aircraft.

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DC-3

A civilian DC-3, in good shape despite its age. 

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Dakota

The museum's goal is to fully restore it to passenger airliner spec.

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Agusta/Bell

The tiny Bell 47, made by Agusta in Italy. This example was the first aircraft obtained by the Armed Forces of Malta.

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Texas trainer

This North American T-6G Texan served in two Italian flight schools. But that's not what's interesting...

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Guts

The sides are cut away, so you can see the many cables and linkages required to operate the aircraft. 

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'Fix It Again Tony'

Certainly better known for their cars, Fiat, specifically Fiat Aviazione, built aircraft for 61 years before merging with another company to become Aeritalia (which itself merged with other companies to eventually become Leonardo S.p.A.). This is the G.91 fighter-bomber.

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G.91

The sleek G.91 flew with the Italian, West German and Portuguese air forces until the mid-1990s.

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My, what a big nose you have

The nose of an English Electric Lightning

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Just the nose

Just the nose and cockpit of the EE Lightning, though. In the foreground is a cutaway example of the Rolls Royce Avon that would have powered it. This example was used in Malta for instructional purposes. 

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Smaller jet

In comparison to the Avon, here's a tiny Turbomeca Arriel. It was typically used as a helicopter engine.

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Bigger jet

Or, to go the other way, here's an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, the type of engine that powered many early British bombers and fighters. This particular one once propelled a Gloster Javelin.

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Meteor

One of three Gloster Meteors at the museum (two are on display).

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Restoration in progress

This one is going to be restored and painted to match the squadron of one of the museum's biggest benefactors (who was stationed on Malta when the RAF was here).

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Night fighter

This Gloster Meteor is the NF.14 night fighter variant. 

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Aviation rhinoplasty

It's easy to tell the NF.14s because of their extra-long nose.

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BAC One-Eleven

Most air museums can't fit entire large aircraft, so they show the interesting bits. This is the nose from a BAC 1-11. The museum also has an engine from the same plane.

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Cockpit

What's cool is you can go inside. So many dials. A far cry from today's glass cockpits, like the one in the Cirrus Vision Jet.

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Famous Huey

Though stripped out, this Huey has had a long, interesting life. It served in Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and Alabama's Air National Guard. And then it became rather famous...

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Movie star

Apparently it was used in "Munich," "Tropic Thunder" and eventually, "World War Z," which was shot here in Malta, where the chopper stayed.

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Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar

The last hangar commemorates the Air Battle of Malta with a Spitfire and a Hurricane, both with ties to Malta.

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Spitfire

This MkIX Spitfire flew in the North Africa Front of WWII before being stationed on this very RAF base, taking part in Operation Husky to take Sicily. 

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MkIX

It was then stationed in Sicily and the Italian mainland before coming back to Malta in 1945.

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Spitfire

This MkIIA Spitfire was built in 1941 and was delivered to Malta in May or June of that year.

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MkIIA

It briefly flew off the carrier HMS Ark Royal. Before dawn on July 4, 1941, after what is assumed to have been an engine fire, it crashed at night. The plane, and sadly, the pilot, Sgt. Thomas Hackston, were lost at sea.

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Recovery

50 years later, the plane was found by a diver. Sgt. Hackston's sisters were still alive and were glad to learn the fate of their beloved brother. The aircraft was recovered from the sea and painstakingly restored. 

For the more about this lovely museum, check out Maltese falcons: An island museum full of beautiful aircraft.

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