A celebration of a century of aviation history has been created in two Second World War hangars after a multi-million-pound overhaul which has secured the buildings’ long-term future.
Dozens of military and civilian aircraft will go on display this weekend along with state-of-the-art displays and little-seen memorabilia linked to the history of aviation.
Rare flight footage has been sourced for the new-look hangars, along with filmed interviews with defenders of the nation and others whose lives were touched by the exhibits.
The £3.6 million project at the National Museum of Flight, in East Lothian, is the latest phase of a long-term revamp instigated after a Concorde was secured in 2004.
Part of the museum – which has been open at the former RAF site at East Fortune since 1975 – has been closed for more than a year for the work on the two hangars, which date back to 1940-41 and were intended to last just a decade.
New heating and insulation systems have been installed which have allowed precious uniforms, military documents and personal memorabilia to go on display for the first time.
More than 30 aircraft are spread between the two hangars including a Supermarine Spitfire, the RAF’s first supersonic jet fighter; the oldest-surviving Hawker Siddeley Harrier jump jet, which was the world’s first vertical take-off combat aeroplane, and a rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163B-1a Komet, which was the fastest aircraft of the Second World War.
There is also a celebration of the Royal Navy’s most decorated pilot, Leith-born Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown. He visited the site shortly before he passed away last month and was reunited with the Messerschmitt aircraft he captured in 1945 at an airfield at Husum, in northern Germany.
Commercial and leisure aircraft on display include a Britten Norman Islander, which were deployed as air ambulances for Orkney and Shetland for 40 years. Visitors can hear Belle Spence recall giving birth in a flight above the Shetland island of Whalsay.
They can also view remains of a Spartan Cruiser and relive the incident when it crashed in Ayrshire while delivering film reels to a cinema in Campbeltown in 1938, and also inspect the Druine Turbulent aircraft, which was partly built by John Sharp in his bedroom at home in Airdrie in 1974.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: “Spanning a century of aviation, the displays present our spectacular aircraft in new and dynamic ways, revealing for the first time the engaging stories of some of the people who flew and worked with them.”