Triplanes, biplanes, jets and helicopters at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry

From an Avro Shackleton to an English Electric Lightning to a Bristol Belvedere, this museum in the north of England has some wonderful exhibits. Here's a full tour.

Geoffrey Morrison
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
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Air and space

This is the Air and Space Hall of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England. The building itself is a bit of an attraction, a former marketplace that's 134 years old.

Read the full story behind the tour: I stumbled across these beautiful flying machines in an unexpected place.

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From triplanes to jet planes

Three eras of flight: a Roe Triplane, a satellite (sadly there was zero information about it) and an English Electric Lightning jet fighter.

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Avro, one of Britain's legendary aircraft manufacturers, was founded here in Manchester. This is a replica of the Roe Triplane 1 from 1909, the first all-British airplane to fly.

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Horses to horsepower

The progression from horse-drawn carrage to fully realized automobile.

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An Avro Avian IIIA. Built here in Manchester in 1928 and flown by pioneering aviator Lady Heath.

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This Avro 504K was built from spare parts in 1930, 17 years after the first 504K flew. It has a 6.1-liter, 110-horsepower rotary engine.

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The Avro Shackleton dominates the space, as most bombers do (though it's not technically a bomber). We'll get a better view from the other side in a few slides.

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707A and Crossley

On the left, the experimental Avro 707A. On the right, a Crossley Regis 6.

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Speed testing

The 707A was built to test the dynamics of the delta-wing design that would later become famous as the Avro Vulcan.

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A Pakistan Railways 4-4-0, one of several locomotives in the Power hall, including a British Rail Class 77 and a massive South African Class GL 4-8-2+2-8-4.

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A French Morane-Saulnier MS.880B Rallye. This aircraft is slightly slower than the last one you saw.

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Props and chopper

A tight fit getting the Belvedere in between the posts.

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Mr. Belvedere

The Bristol Belvedere was a cargo helicopter used by the Royal Air Force in the 1960s.

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Bristol cockpit

I don't know about you, but I think that bear would be a terrible navigator.

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Tandem rotors

The Belvedere's rotors were so close together that a synchronizing shaft between the engines was needed to keep the blades from colliding.

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Wings of air and water

An ultralight on the right, the Shackleton in the back, and a Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka in the foreground.

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Swift Miss

The world speed record-holder for its class, the Miss Windermere VI hydroplane.

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Big 'bomber'

The Avro Shackleton was a maritime patrol aircraft developed from the Lincoln, which itself was based on the famous WWII Lancaster. Only 8 years separated the first flights of the Lancaster and the Shackleton. That's a lot of development for such a short time.

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The Shackleton is one of the few aircraft with contrarotating propellers -- they rotate in opposite directions, powered from the same engine.

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Torpedo bay

Though more of a detection and recon aircraft, the Shackleton usually carried depth charges or torpedoes.

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A few jet engines sit under and near the wing of the Shackleton. The closest is an Olympus 201 from an Avro Vulcan.

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A de Havilland Dragon Rapide, a short-haul airliner from the 1930s.

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Even as most aircraft were switching to metal, the Rapide's frame was entirely wooden.

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Flying Flea

A Mignet HM.14, an early home-built aircraft. This one was built in 1936, and has a 28-horsepower engine from an Austin 7.

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As cool as the old building was by acting as a counterpoint to the aircraft, the atmosphere was a bit... cool. Cold, in fact. They weren't big into insulation and triple-pane glass in the Victorian era, I guess.

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English Electric

The English Electric Lightning was a Mach 2 interceptor that served the Royal Air Force for almost 30 years.

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0.5 past Mach speed

This specific aircraft was the second made by the company, and reached Mach 1.53.

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Rare for a jet aircraft, the Lightning had its engines arranged vertically. To the right is the nose of a Hawker Siddeley Trident.

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Trident cockpit

Like most airliners of its era, the Trident needed three cockpit crew: pilot, copilot and engineer. Modern airliners only need the pilot and copilot, in part because of LCD screens.

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All in the family

The family resemblance to the Lincoln and Lancaster is undeniable, but the Shackleton is actually bigger.

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The view

Instead of a bombardier, the Shackleton had multiple lookout points, like the bubble at the front, for the crew to spot ships and surfaced submarines. For submerged subs, they had things like a magnetic anomaly detector, which sounds sci-fi to me, but is actually quite common.

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Science museum

Though I concentrated on the Air and Space Hall, the larger museum is cool too. Built into an old factory, here are the looms of its former life. Many of the museums exhibits ring this space.

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Manchester was a boomtown during the industrial revolution and on display at the museum were numerous machines that were used during the time. Here is a Jacquard loom. I can't imagine how loud these buildings would be with dozens of these running.

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Steam machines

Part of the same complex of buildings, the Power hall has dozens of machines from the age of steam.

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The complex copper and steel, gears and linkages, pipes and wheels. It was all fascinating to look at, and even more amazing how revolutionary these were in their day. Perhaps there was a SteamNET newspaper that covered all the latest tech.

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Old market

The Air and Space hall is in a 134-year-old building, originally the Lower Campfield Market. In the 13 decades since, it spent time as an exhibition hall, munitions and barrage balloon test site, and more. The Victorian architecture is what earned its Grade II listed status, and makes it one of the most interesting buildings I've seen housing an aviation museum.

While certainly not the biggest air museum in Britain (that's probably the RAF London Museum or Imperial War Museum Duxford), it was a fascinating detour. Oh, and it's free. Added bonus.

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