As a long-time airplane enthusiast, I love air shows and old plane museums. RAF Hendon is a fantastic collection of airplanes that retells the history of the RAF from its inception as the Royal Air Corps at the start of the First World War to the modern day of drones and the F-35 joint strike fighter.
On a lovely hot day, we drove to London to visit. The museum is free but you have to pay to park and it is open from 10am to 6pm. I think £4 for six hours is a small price to pay for a whole day’s amusement (and education) for the children. The Royal Air Force Museum has something for everyone with all the airplane exhibits, picnic areas, outdoor and indoor play areas for all ages. Currently the museum is celebrating the centenary of the RAF by showcasing interesting stories from the past 100 years.
There are six hangars, situated quite close together and each dealing with a different era. You go from early combat planes, through WWI and WWII, to the modern age of aviation warfare, and even air sea rescue helicopters. Both children and adults, me included, learned an awful lot about aviation history as we went around. The bomber hangar has an Avro Lancaster bomber, a Vulcan bomber, a B17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator and many more excellent aircraft. In adjoining hangars, you can also see Spitfires, a Vampire, a Harrier, a Meteor and a whole load more.
Any aircraft that has historical significance to the UK is represented. One of my personal favourites is the Sunderland Flying boat, which is right next to the Sunderland Café in Hangar 1.
There are also some excellent interactive exhibits, air-force memorabilia and supporting vehicle displays such as motorbikes and ground crew vehicles.
Food and Drink
There are two cafés (the Wessex – near the helicopters, and the Sunderland – near the flying boat), for you to grab a hot or cold drink and a piece of cake. If you fancy hot food, there’s Claude’s Restaurant serving popular meals like fish and chips. We decided to rest at the Wessex Café: lovely coffee, but the staff were a little bit stretched due to demand – all of the coffees are made from scratch and it takes time and skill. You need to be patient. Prices are not off the wall and the chocolate cake and Danish pastries looked lovely.
Lots of people were picnicking out on the laws – there’s no demand for you to purchase anything. However, good luck getting through the shop on the way out with a child! FAR too many tempting items!
The museum also has a number of extra exhibits that you can pay for. There are several flight simulators (approximately £3 each or £9 for a family ticket). You can also sit in the cockpits of some planes for a personal experience. The one everyone raves about is the Spitfire Cockpit Experience, where you can sit in one and get a guided tour.
Another good extra is the 4D theatre where you can get that interactive experience with the Red Arrows, the Red Baron, the Paris Air show or see what a fighter pilot sees.
We all loved RAF Hendon. Couldn’t believe that we’d not visited sooner. There’s lots to see and do, but everything is close together so it’s not exhausting. We will absolutely return.