The North East Aircraft Museum, formerly the Northumbrian Aeronautical Collection, began life in 1974 as a small group of vintage aircraft enthusiasts meeting very informally at Sunderland Flying Club to exchange views and information on their chosen interest. At this time, the North East was the only major area of the United Kingdom not covered by any form of vintage aircraft group. Indeed, the only enthusiast aviation group in the whole region was Air North which mainly indulged in aircraft spotting. As the number of people attending the informal group meetings began to swell the decision was taken to establish a more formal organization and thus the Northumbrian Aeronautical Collection was born.
About the time of the formation of the N.A.C. , reports were received of the existence of an ex-Fleet Air Arm Westland Dragonfly helicopter rotting in a North Yorkshire scrapyard, and that a Gloster Meteor F.Mk.8 fighter aircraft was to be broken up at RAF Acklington. After many hurried conversations and much frantic money raising, it was decided that the N.A.C. should go into aircraft preservation.
Following the acquisition of the two airframes, finding a suitable site to display the embryo collection was the first major difficulty. However, this was finally overcome when the owners and organizers at Lambton Pleasure Park showed an interest and were kind enough to provide a site free of charge. Thus, a trend was started that would eventually develop into the North East Aircraft Museum.
Over the following years the museum continued to grow, by collecting aircraft and artefacts from home and abroad, this included three aircraft donated by the United States Air Force. As the size of the collection increased so did visitor figures and the museum was considered to be of sufficient standing to allow an entrance fee to replace entrance by donation. In an effort to enhance the status of the museum it was decided that the museum should apply for registered charity status and that the museum support and fund raising activities should be set up as a limited company.
It was also at this time that the museum achieved its first major preservation coup by successfully saving the remains of a Supermarine Swift F.4 and a Bristol Brigand. These two airframes were of a particular historical significance in that the former was the remains of an aircraft that had captured the World Air Speed record in 1953. The latter represented the sole surviving remains of this type of aircraft anywhere in the world. Both of these exhibits wre saved from certain destruction, while many larger museums looked on.
In January 1983 the largest aircraft to land at Sunderland Airport arrived for the museum. This exhibit, the mighty Avro Vulcan bomber, which is still the largest and most expensive of the museum’s acquisitions instantly became the museum’s biggest attraction and to this day remains open for public inspection.
In line with a policy of continuous improvement the museum was able to stage another major preservation coup in 1988 when an F-84 Thunderstreak arrived on site from Greece. This was followed in 1989 by an F-86D Saber from the same source and thus gave the museum two further unique exhibits. The success of the policy of continuous improvement and extended opening times was supported by the ever increasing number of visitors, which by the end of 1990 had reached an annual total in excess of 20,000.
First Broadcast: 5th September 2006
A self confessed super fan of Most Haunted and editor of GhostMag.com. Matt’s passion for ghost hunting began when he moved into a haunted house in his second year of university in Leicester! His favourite location is the Niddry Street Vaults in Edinburgh.