The National Aerospace Library in Farnborough was open for visitors during the heritage open days in September. This library is where documents and archives of flight exploration are held and restored. They also house wooden prototype models of early aircraft.
I attended a talk about flights to America across the Atlantic. This was illustrated using passages from books, old posters, as well as a large old album of newspaper clippings. The early pioneers were just thrilled to get off the ground and they used to hold flying races to see how far or how fast they could fly and crossing the Atlantic was a test of range especially as there is nowhere to land or refuel. There were original posters on display advertising early holidays by flight for those brave enough to take them. Before leaving they showed some early film footage of a man flying from Paris to America.
The library has an extensive audio and video archive which is available online and contains recordings and books of interest. When I got home, I listened to a pilot’s diary doing races across the oceans.
A short walk away in another building is one of the earliest flight test facilities. A large wind tunnel, which was used for honing the air profile for early 20th century and WWII aircraft.
Inside the hanger stood a 50 foot across wooden propeller. As this rotated it would push the air through several vanes to smooth the airflow before it was blown at high velocity over an aircraft to simulate the air stresses.
“smaller” aircraft such as a Spitfire would come through a pair of double doors and then lifted onto two frames and into the correct position to begin testing. Larger aircraft were modelled, and the model of the aircraft was hung on bits of string suspended from the ceiling.
Both the library and wind tunnel were FREE, accessible, and interesting to visit.