The Midland Air Museum is located just outside of Baginton Village in Warwickshire, Great Britain, close to Coventry Airport. Not so many of the 20 or so founding members of the “Midland Aircraft Preservation Society” that were present at the inaugural meeting on May 24, 1967, would have thought that the Midland Air Museum they just had founded, would become the impressive exiting place it is more than 50 years on.
Now, the efforts of these and the members who followed them have resulted in a top-notch British independent air museum. That first meeting, brought about by a series of adverts in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, took place in a hired room at The Nugget Inn in Coventry.
The Society, or M.A.P.S. as it became known, began amassing a fine collection of photographs, books, aircraft bits, airframes, and engines, and although the latter were generally small and easily stored there was an attempt, in December/January of 1967/1968, to save the second prototype Hawker Hunter from the scrapman at Solihull. With little resources and nowhere to put it the attempt was unsuccessful.
The first airframe acquired was the remains of a Parnall Pixie IIIa – a two-seat low-powered airplane built for the Light Aeroplane Trials at Lympne where it met with some success. The Pixie remains in store until the time, money and space are available to rebuild it. Next came the wings of an H.M.14 Pou de Ciel – better known as the Flying Flea that created an aircraft homebuilding craze in 1935/1936. Armed with a copy of Henri Mignet’s book le Sport de l’Air, members set about building a fuselage in a borrowed garage and acquired wheels, a rudder and other components for their first airplane restoration. For an overview of Listed Historic UK Airfields, click here.
The M.A.P.S., with no home of its own, exhibited at air shows, fetes, etc. to raise funds for new acquisitions, transportation, and storage, to attract new members and to publicize its desire to create a Midland Air Museum. Check out also this post about the North Weald Airfield Museum that’s located about an hour northeast of London and highlights the squadrons flying out of RAF North Weald.
Other aircraft acquired in the first four to five years included the Wheeler Slymph of 1931, a Miles Messenger, a de Havilland Fox Moth, a de Havilland Rapide, a Bleriot XI replica and several gliders. Some remain in store, some have been passed on to others for restoration and some are now on permanent display. In 1972 a de Havilland Vampire T.11 jet trainer was acquired, quickly followed by a de Havilland Vampire F.1 and a Gloster Meteor F.4. The Meteor and Vampire were Britain’s first and second jet types to enter service and established the nucleus of the present collection of early and important jet airplanes.
In 1975, years of effort to find a home for the growing collection paid off through a lease with the Coventry City Council for a piece of land on Coventry Airport and members turned into amateur builders and civil engineers to establish MAM (Midland Air Museum) – a considerable change from attendance at air displays. While only five aircraft were displayed, the Museum admitted its first visitors on Sunday, April 2nd, 1978 when 67 people paid a total of £7.10 to enter.
A period of rapid expansion ensued, acquiring more airframes and engines to increase the interest for visitors who, it was now confirmed, would pay to view them. in a three-and-a-half year period up until autumn 1981, 12 additional airplanes were added to the collection and transported to the Museum. To learn more about the History of RAF North Weald Airfield, check out this interesting post.
Early in 1977 the Midland Aircraft Preservation Society officially changed into the Midland Air Museum, which just over 12 months later became a Limited Company and then in early 1979 received charitable status. More recently the Museum achieved registered museum status under the Museum Registration Scheme of the Government but there more privately operated aviation history museums such as the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center in East Kirkby, about one hour and fifteen minutes driving north of Peterborough.
The Museum’s collection kept on growing and when an Avro Vulcan Bomber was acquired in 1983, the Museum site that was already double the size of the original one, became bigger once again. To make sure it could expand further, the Museum relocated off Coventry Airport onto a site adjacent to the former location of 4.5 acres bordering onto Rowley Road. Caring for a collection of airplanes kept outdoors was becoming more and more difficult and an appeal for a hangar was launched.
This eventually met with great success with the provision of a grant for £110,000 from the West Midlands County Council. This provided for the bare shell of what is now the Sir Frank Whittle Jet Heritage Centre, in which are now based the starts of the two principal themes within the Museum – The Story of The Jet and Wings over Coventry. Galleries for these have been created on the ground and first floors respectively. Later a second hangar, the Robin Hangar, was erected where restoration work is now carried out away from the weather.
Today, the museum still runs primarily on volunteers though there is now a full-time employed manager and two assistants. A very active youth program is bringing new people to the Museum and the restoration activities. Countless hours of voluntary restoration and maintenance work by young and old citizens make the Midland Air Museum a great place to visit. Check also: RAF Polebroom-Northamptonshire.