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Newquay’s on cloud nine with the opening of Classic Air Force Museum

The former RAF St Mawgan airfield is once again alive to the sound of small aircraft revving up for take-off as the Classic Air Museum opens near Newquay.
Take a disused runway, 545,000* visitors and an imaginative mind and what do you get? The ! Newly opened in 2013 on Good Friday, this new attraction shows firm confidence in Cornwall’s tourist trade at a time when other places are having to close down and scale back on investment. Located at the former Nimrod hangar at RAF St Mawgan, the museum is located between and St Columb Major. Just follow the signs from the A3059.

The Classic Air Force Museum isn’t just for aircraft enthusiasts and ex-military types, it is a family-friendly day out with plenty to interest everyone. Run as a charitable trust, Classic Air Force has the largest fleet of post-World War 2 classic aircraft in Europe. Its mission is to save rare aircraft from the scrapyard and operate them for the benefit of the public.

Panoramic flights at the Classic Air Museum

Although most museums exhibits can be described as dead and dusty, you can’t say the same about the Classic Air Force Museum. In fact some of the exhibits are not even stationary! Visitors can get airborne and feel the wind in their hair, literally, with a pleasure flight on some of these old planes.

Comfortable and spacious compared to new airliners, everyone gets a window seat to enjoy stunning views over Newquay and the Cornish coast from the air. Take a memorable flight in a Rapide with panoramic views or take a ride in the four-seater Prentice. Panoramic flights start from £60 per person and they make a great birthday gift. How cool is that!

Daredevils can take an aerobatic flight in a World War 2 Chipmunk and experience a gravity-defying loop-the-loop in the air. Now that’s something to take back home and talk about! Kitted out in your flying suit and intercom headset you’ll really look the part, so don’t forget to pose for photos.

25 aircraft on display

There are currently 25 small vintage planes and early jets that are part of the museum collection. The trustees aim to keep them running as a testament to their flight history, so if you’re enjoying a holiday rental in and hear the rattle and rasp of a small plane engine, look up! You may see one of the classics such as the Avro Anson T21, built to patrol the coast in 1934. It was the first plane built for the RAF with a retractable undercarriage, although it had to be handcranked with over 140 turns, so understandably most pilots chose not to bother! The plane was in service until 1972 and had a forward-firing machine gun, a hand-operated flexible gun in the rear and space for a small bomb.

Famous aircraft manufacturing companies such as Hawker Siddeley and de Havilland, once major employers in the UK, are represented in the collection. These now defunct companies produced many of the planes in the museum such as the de Havilland Chipmunk, Dove/Devon, Dragon Rapide, Vampire and Venom as well as the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, best known as a fleet carrier during the Falklands War.

Affordable Newquay attraction

What I really like about this new addition to Newquay’s already impressive list of attractions is the fact that it is very affordable. You can easily spend a whole day here (from 10am to 8pm in the summer, and 10am till 6pm at other times) at a cost of £9 for adults and £5 for children aged 8-15. Bring the grandparents, and they get in at the senior citizen rate of £6 and under 8’s are free.

We’ll keep you posted of future events at the Classic Air Force Museum – and we would appreciate your help. If you know of any air shows or events in Cornwall that are fun to visit, please post the information in our comments box. If you’ve already visited the museum, we would appreciate your comments and feedback below.

* Newquay received 545,000 visitors in 2011 out of a total 4.5 million visitors to Cornwall, according to VisitEngland.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.


  1. Jeff says:

    Oh wow this will be a great day out! Aeroplanes, especially WW2 era, are my favourites ever since I was a little kid…

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