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Visit to the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre

On a lovely sunny Friday afternoon we had the benefit of an excellent tour of the “Michael Beetham Conservation Centre” at the RAF Midlands Museum, Cosford. We were hosted by the manager Darren Priday.

There are 2 RAF Museums (Cosford and Hendon), the conservation centre provides engineering services for both. The aim is to conserve aircraft and associated equipment for display. There is no aim for these aircraft to fly.

We spent some time looking at the work on one of the only 2 surviving Handley-Page Hampden bombers.

This particular aircraft crashed in Northern Russia during 1942, 50 years later (1992) the wreckage was recovered and transferred to the RAF Museum for conservation. After a huge amount of loving work, using original parts where possible and new parts manufactured using traditional methods it is now in a condition where it can be displayed giving a wonderful insight in what this plane was like to operate. It will shortly be transferred to the Hendon site.

Another wonderful project that we were able to see was the German Dornier 17. This is the only surviving aircraft of this type. It crashed into the sea over the Goodwin sands (off Kent) during the Battle of Britain in August 1940. In 2013 it was recovered having been discovered by divers. The wings and fuselage were separated, it then spent several years in polytunnels at Cosford being sprayed with citric acid. Having stabilised the wreckage attention can now be focused on how to display it. Given its fragility the decision has been taken that it will remain at Cosford.

We also saw some of the wonderful work done on wooden aircraft and saw at close quarters a German wooden aircraft from 1918.

The conservation centre operates an apprentice scheme where a wide of range of skills, both traditional and modern are trained.

The museum is in the fortunate position of being able to lend Aircraft to museums etc. for (often temporary) display. The staff at the conservation centre are responsible for the necessary dismantling, transport and reassembly. We saw a Spitfire ready to be transported for temporary display.

At the end of the visit most of us spent the remaining time at the museum where we were able to see (amongst many other things) the last Wellington Bomber to fly (one only 2 surviving) which had recently left the conservation centre. Those fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time were treated to (an unexpected) flypast of a Spitfire and Hurricane.

Overall and excellent day, many thanks for Darren and his team

John Pollard

I.Mech.E. Regional Chairman – Merseyside and N Wales

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