Aerospace Bristol: exploring Concorde on the ground

Just a quick detour from the M4 lies the chance to meet the dormant Concorde herself and discover over 100 years of aviation history. When the world’s fastest commercial passenger plane came to rest, it would appear she did so with UK road trippers in mind.

Aerospace Bristol, the new home of the Concorde, is located less than a 20 minute drive from Bristol’s city centre and can also be visited easily if you’re travelling east or west on the M4.

But, what makes aviation so fascinating and why is visiting the resting place of the Concorde a must-do when driving past Bristol?

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The vehicle to worldwide adventure

Despite marrying into a family in love with aviation, I’ve never really been a plane aficionado myself. That said, I admire what planes can do – allowing many of us to travel the world in record time. I’ve even built a life and family based around visiting global destinations, frequently for work and pleasure.

While passenger jets remain the vehicles to worldwide adventure for the public, the super-sleek Concorde has always captured my imagination. It broke engineering records and could travel at over twice the speed of sound. If you were lucky enough to have travelled by Concorde, you would have reached your destination in less than half the time than if you’d hopped on a traditional airliner.

When the aircraft was forced into retirement in 2003, it seemed all too sudden. Luckily for those, like me, who didn’t get the chance to live the jet-set lifestyle on this supersonic aircraft, Aerospace Bristol provides the opportunity to feel inspired by Concorde.

Why make Aerospace Bristol a road trip stop?

Image credit: Aerospace Bristol

One of the latest in a flurry of exciting new museums to grace Bristol, on the edge of the Avon, Aerospace Bristol houses the last Concorde ever to fly.

It’s particularly easy to reach as a stop off on a longer UK road trip, as you’ll bypass all the inner city traffic, winding off the M4 straight down into the large suburb of Patchway.

Not yet a year old, the museum makes a wise first choice if you’re looking for a cultural visit. It keep its sleek-silhouetted star attraction a secret until the second of two enormous hangars.

Image credit: Aerospace Bristol

First, you’re issued your boarding pass and flight details. Then, you travel back over 100 years to the early days of Filton Airfield aviation. Paper-thin bi-planes are suspended in the air. Recruitment posters and polished wooden propellers complete the realistic picture of aviation’s past.

By the time I’d reached the Harrier jump jet, I’d almost forgotten about the supersonic plane with white triangular wings.

Image credit: Aerospace Bristol

Most striking of all, however, was a curiously crooked pile of suitcases. Ever so slightly vintage, and lit by fluorescent lights, it took a moment to realise that this was not a funky art installation. It was a cross-section of a commercial plane – seats above, suitcases below, with a thin layer in between.

With this new insight into how we travel when in the air, it was time to experience the museum’s pièce de résistance. I strode across the tarmac, with the sun blazing overhead, and the Top Gun theme tune running on loop in my head.

The museum’s Anglo-French protagonist

Entering through a small door, with a quick boarding card check, I was greeted by the quiet, imposing Concorde.

Image credit: Aerospace Bristol

It’s as impressive as the Eiffel Tower, without the queues. The silence didn’t last for long. Soon, an unexpectedly moving audio-visual display starts up, using the fuselage of the Concorde as the screen.

Upstairs, glass-encased memorabilia transport you back to the golden era of Concorde. Cabin crew uniforms and champagne bottles adorn the shelves, while pilot voiceovers play through speakers. Black and white photos of enigmatic superstars give the experience a sprinkling of stardust.

Aerospace Bristol is an intriguing, inspiring road trip stop you can happily spend a few hours exploring. An afternoon of cultural and technological discovery will leave you wondering what the next vehicle development will be as you head back to your car.

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