AVIATION fans and dedicated volunteers were joined by an heroic pilot for the official opening of Gloucestershire’s Jet Age Museum yesterday.
The museum at Gloucestershire Airport, which features 10 classic jet aircraft, was opened by 95-year-old former Royal Navy Captain Eric Brown, the last surviving pilot to have flown the first Allied jet.
Capt Brown unveiled a brass plaque before invited guests.
The museum also held a celebratory gala weekend when visitors took to the skies with helicopter pleasure flights, trial flying lessons and a tours in a vintage Dragon Rapide airliner.
Capt Brown, who lives in West Sussex, said: “I’m very impressed considering that the museum is the work of volunteers and to bring together these iconic aircraft is a fantastic achievement.
"It’s really brought back memories for me, and to see the E2839 jet standing there brought a surge of adrenaline."
“I consider it to be highly important that we preserve the aviation history of our country, especially now as we are such a multiracial country where many people may not be aware of aspects of our heritage. I think it’s important that they are allowed to be acquainted with this.”
Museum chairman John Lewer said: “We’re very excited to be officially opening our doors to the public. To finally have a permanent home for our collection enables us to preserve Gloucestershire’s fine aviation heritage and inspire future generations of pilots and aerospace engineers.”
Volunteers at the Jet Age Museum have welcomed around 10,000 visitors since unofficially opening in August on weekends and bank holidays.
The aircraft collection had been looking for a home since 1986 before Gloucestershire Airport offered the 30 by 36 metre hangar at its Meteor Business Park.
Darren Lewington, head of operations at the airport, said: “We are preserving Gloucestershire’s aviation heritage, which is famed in the aerospace sector, and also inspiring the future.
“The aircraft were at risk before we secured the museum, and we’re very pleased to now have the facilities to look after them properly.”
Capt Brown flew 487 different types of aircraft in his career, as well as all 16 types of Spitfire. He was the first pilot to fly a jet aircraft onto an aircraft carrier, performed test landings on inflatable runways and trialled plane emergency systems.
Mr Lewington said: “It is a privilege to have Capt Brown marking this milestone. He is a true hero and we couldn’t ask for a more decorated and appropriate VIP to conduct the ceremony.”