Dominated by the imposing Vulcan bomber that guards the entrance and car park, the North East Aircraft Museum contains dozens of aircraft and hundreds of air-related artefacts.
The museum is located at the site formerly known as RAF Usworth, which opened in 1916 as a base for Royal Flying Corps fighters protecting the cities against German Zeppelin raids. It fell into disuse with peace, but during the Thirties it was reactivated and by 1939 had a runway and resident fighter squadrons. The Luftwaffe attacked in August 1940, and for the next two years the fighters based here were kept busy fighting off German night raids on northern cities.
After the war the airfield was converted to use as a training base and in 1962 became a civil airfield at which a number of air displays were held. The airfield closed in 1984 and most of the site was sold to Nissan for the construction of their massive car works. A hangar was already being used as a museum, and as a condition of the sale, four acres of ground and buildings were handed over to the enthusiasts collecting old aircraft and other items. The present museum has grown from that early collection. Nowadays no less than 30 of the aircraft are listed as Noteworthy or Significant by the National Aviation Heritage Register.
Although pride of place goes to the mighty Vulcan bomber, there are numerous other exhibits including an Argentinian Pucara bomber of Falkland War vintage, a Vampire bomber, a Lightning fighter, a Gloster Meteor fighter and a number of Westland helicopters. Indoors are numerous engines, uniforms, radios and other fascinating knick-knacks. Regular events are held, including visits by helicopters, model swaps and heritage days.
Don’t miss: The old wind-up RAF telephone in a glass-fronted display case. Apparently it sometimes rings even though it isn’t connected to anything.
North East Aircraft Museum
Old Washington Road, Sunderland
Open 1 Apr–31 Oct daily 10am–5pm;
1 Nov–31 Mar daily 10am–dusk.
Adults £4, children and concessions £2
Sunderland tourist information: 0191 553 2000