The Sultan of Oman's plane has been abandoned on the edge of London.
That reads like the opening line of some sort of interactive quest game — you know, race around London's streets to solve the mystery — but it is in fact a true state of affairs. And it's not alone; six other decommissioned planes keep it company.
The Sultan's plane is a Vickers 1103 VC1O. The Vickers aeroplane factory and headquarters was once on this site, and the story starts to fall into place. The site in question is now the Brooklands Museum, just over the London border into Surrey. It's all about transport — apt, given that as well as being the site of the Vickers factory, it was the home of Concorde, and of the first purpose-built motor racing track.
We stumbled across the plane collection by accident on out visit to the London Bus Museum, which is set in the grounds of the Brooklands Museum. Brooklands itself makes little to-do about its aeroplane collection on its website and in publicity, sweeping six full-size passenger aircraft metaphorically aside and focusing instead on the more lucrative Concorde experience, and the historic former race track.
The Concorde is the first plane you come across, and it's not what you expect to find towering over the museum's sheds and outbuildings. You can go on board for the Concorde Experience (extra charge on top of museum entry fee), see an exhibition about the plane and its restoration, and take a "virtual Concorde flight". You can even get married on it, if you're so inclined,
Around the corner from Concorde, six more planes sit in a field on the edge of the museum's territory, nearly all Vickers models, and all looking more tired and rustier than their supersonic neighbour. They're open to the public as part of the museum (though not always all at once), and yet, this feels like a bit of an afterthought.
There seems to be no logic to their presence, as if they really have been abandoned in an aeroplane graveyard. They're interspersed with various aeroplane parts, adding to the feeling that we've stumbled across an off-limits part of the museum, rather than a public display.
The Sultan of Oman's plane is the highlight of the collection, although its shabby exterior does little to prepare you for the opulence of the interior, which was designed specially for the Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. It made its final flight from Muscat back to the Brooklands runway in 1987, when the Sultan donated it to the museum.
The Sultan's plane is accompanied in the 'Aeroplane Park' by five other machines, four of which were made by Vickers; the Vickers Viscount, the Vickers Varsity, the Vickers Viking and the Vickers Vanguard. The odd one out is the BAC One-Eleven, which never entered passenger service, but instead was used as a test aircraft for the development of new technology.
Each one is set up like a mini-museum dedicated to that particular model. Not interesting in going on board? Take the opportunity to wander among the underbellies of the planes, closer than you'd ever be allowed to get on the airport tarmac.
Various other aircraft — and parts of aircraft — can be seen around the museum, so its worth popping inside some of the hangars too, if you're into aeroplanes.
Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0QS. (£11 adult/£6 child).