Why You Should Visit The RAF Museum

By M@ Last edited 16 months ago

Last Updated 01 February 2023

Why You Should Visit The RAF Museum

The RAF is over 100 years old, and the winged service has its own London museum in Colindale. If you've never visited before, this article is here to give you a jolly good prod up the fuselage. Here are 10 reasons to discover it.

1. Planes, dozens of them

As you'd expect, the RAF museum is mostly about fixed wing aircraft. They've got everything from early biplanes to modern jets. Over 100 planes in all, including the only complete Hawker Typhoon in the world.

2. The biggest boats in Barnet

Less expected are these two sea vessels, which we can only assume are the largest boats in the landlocked borough of Barnet.

3. The Vulcan

The museum's biggest highlight, in both senses, is the Avro Vulcan bomber. This is the plane that would have dropped our nukes, had WW3 broken out before the ICBM era. This colossal vehicle, with 30-metre wings, will drop the jaw of even the most indifferent visitor. The picture doesn't do it justice. Look out for the giant television within the bomb bay doors.

4. Helicopter cafe

The museum's cafe has one of the most intriguing views in London, so long as you enjoy looking at historic helicopters. Here's the Westland Wessex we ogled over a cappuccino. A new restaurant called Claude's is also available.

5. Walk through a Chinook

The double-rotored transport helicopter is a common site in the skies above London, but how often do you get to walk through one? The museum has a forward fuselage packed with information and interactives.

6. London wartime history

Those looking to learn more about the Blitz and Battle of Britain will find plenty here. We were particularly taken by a crumpled engine near the main entrance. Turns out, this is from the Hurricane fighter which saved Buckingham Palace during WW2. Its pilot, Sgt Holmes, spotted a German plane lining up for an attack on the Palace. Out of ammo, Holmes decided to clip the enemy with his wing. Both planes came down around Victoria station, with Holmes bailing clear. The Hurricane lay buried beneath Buckingham Palace Road until its recovery in 2004. The engine is on show in Hendon.

6. It's easy to get to

The museum is a short walk from Colindale station on the Edgware branch of the Northern line. For those who drive, the museum has a new and generously sized car park (small fee).

7. It's fun for kids

The museum has its own kids space, which is a little dated in places but still plenty of fun. For those with small children, the pre-schooler 'Little Swifts' sessions sound good (booking required). But children of all ages will enjoy exploring the wider museum, which has plenty of room to exercise little legs.

8. Events programme

Like all good museums, this place runs regular and varied events. Upcoming events include a rare Open Cockpits and Cabs day, when you can get a closer look inside dozens of vehicles. And RAF Foundation Day on 1 April 2018.

9. It's only going to get better

The museum is coming to the end of a major refit, thanks to Heritage Lottery money. It will soon gain three new exhibitions: RAF: The First 100 Years, RAF: Now and the Future, RAF: In an Age of Uncertainty. In addition, the grounds are being relandscaped in preparation for the big relaunch in summer 2018.

The museum will close between 30 April and 4 May to put the finishing touches together. Even so, we'd still encourage a visit before that week. There's still an enormous amount to see (for free), and the place will be much busier following the publicity for the relaunch.

The RAF Museum is on Grahame Park Way, Colindale NW9 5QW. Open 10am-6pm. We'll have more about the museum around the time of its relaunch.