RAF Cosford Open Cockpit

Bristol Type 188 (Photo '©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum’)
Bristol Type 188 (Photo '©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum’)
Bristol Type 188 (Photo ‘©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum’)

Royal Air Force Museum Cosford will be giving visitors a rare opportunity to climb aboard a selection of aircraft and sit in the pilot’s seat during the ‘Open Cockpits Evening’ event taking place next month. Over 450 visitors attended the event held in May and organisers are confident that the September event will be just as popular with an exciting line up of aircraft available on the night. Aircraft confirmed for close viewing include the unique Bristol Type 188. Built mainly of stainless steel, this aircraft was designed to investigate the effects of heat on aircraft structures at very high speeds. To protect the pilot against heat build-up a special cockpit refrigeration system was installed. Nicknamed ‘Flaming Pencil’, only two Bristol 188s ever flew, a third being used for ground tests.

The Bristol 188 more resembles something out of a science fiction movie than an aircraft of the day. While the type had a very brief career, it proved scientifically very useful in the development of future aircraft. (MOD photo)
The Bristol 188 more resembles something out of a science fiction movie than an aircraft of the day. While the type had a very brief career, it proved scientifically very useful in the development of future aircraft. (MOD photo)

Other highlights include access inside the Hawker Siddeley Gnat T1, made famous by the Red Arrows. The Gnat was intended to replace the Vampire as an advanced trainer for pilots who would fly jet fighters and bombers, combining high performance with the handling qualities required for effective instruction. A total of 105 Gnats served with the RAF and its aerobatic qualities led to the formation of the Yellowjacks aerobatic team in 1964, which inspired the foundation of the world famous Red Arrows the following year. The team flew their red Gnats for fourteen years until the British Aerospace Hawk replaced them at the end of the 1979 season.

The Hawker Siddeley Gnats of the Red Arrows; seen here at RAF Kemble in 1973. (photo via Wikipedia)
The Hawker Siddeley Gnats of the Red Arrows; seen here at RAF Kemble in 1973. (photo via Wikipedia)

Visitors to ‘Open Cockpits Evening’ will also have the rare chance to view inside the cockpit of a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I K9942, the oldest surviving example of its type, having first flown on April 21st, 1939. It joined 72 Squadron at Church Fenton just a few days later where F/O James Nicolson was one of her regular pilots. Nicolson, as most readers should know, went on to win the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Britain, the only man in Fighter Command to do so. K9942 has an interesting service history, and it’s well worth a look-through. Click HERE to see her RAF Museum history card.

The ‘Open Cockpit’ event, which now runs on both a Friday and Saturday evening, will allow twice as many visitors to enjoy some of the world’s most iconic aircraft. Just 300 tickets per evening are available for this exclusive event, ensuring visitors have plenty of time to get a feel for what it was like to fly the aircraft, ask lots of questions and take photos as memento of their visit.

Supermarine Spitfire 1 (Photo '©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum’)
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I K9942 (Photo ‘©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum’)

RAF Museum Cosford Event Manager Abi Betteridge said:“Museum visitors are always keen to see inside the aircraft we have on display and events like these are the perfect opportunity to make a visit to the Museum extra special. We try to offer a real mix of aircraft type for visitors to climb on board during ‘Open Cockpits Evening’, so whether it’s a fast jet to spark interest in the younger generation, or a nostalgic wartime aircraft that brings back memories for our older visitors, we have everything covered.”

Hawker Siddeley Gnat T1
Hawker Siddeley Gnat T1 (Photo ‘©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum’)

Visitors will have exclusive after-hours access to the Museum which displays a collection of over 75 aircraft, military vehicles, engines and aviation artefacts within three wartime hangars and the award-winning National Cold War Exhibition. As an added extra, visitors can experience the thrills of powered flight on board the Flight Simulator and 4D Experience at a special discounted rate.Tickets for the popular event are now on sale through the Museum’s website www.rafmuseum.org/cosford, with just 300 tickets available per evening.  The Museum will close at

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