Manston is fairly unique in having two “Museums” very closely situated. This review is of the RAF Manston and not the Memorial just along the road.
With the future of flying from the site very much in doubt, the museum acts as a timely reminder of the strategic importance of this airfield on the Isle of Thanet. Once home to the USAF, the museum reflects that influence and the history of the site.
A selection of full framed aircraft are on view – F6 Lightning XR770, Jet Provost XR558, Sepecat Jaguar XZ106 and Canadair T-133 painted to represent a T33 based at Manston in the 50’s.
The museum has a decent selection of Cockpits on display as well, including a Handley Page Victor and a Blackburn Buccaneer.
The upper gallery of the museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of the airfield, right up to its enforced closure by current owners a couple of years ago.
The future of the museum is unsure, there is a proposal to retain some of the runway, some 2000m, and move both museums to a site alongside the new heritage runway; which would be used by historic aircraft though I am told you could get a 737 down on it. It wouldn’t get up again though!
If they are to build thousands of homes on the site I would hope and prey that this gets the go ahead. I just cannot see the airfield going back into use as is. There is certainly no will from the Government to see aviation return in its current form, instead they see it as somewhere to park lorries when it all goes wrong at the Port of Dover (an absolutely ludicrous idea as the road links from Thanet to Dover aren’t exactly made for heavy traffic!)
I visited on an awful day in January when the weather was not at its best, however I could have spent a few hours perusing the exhibits had I not had a patiently waiting wife in the car! At £2.00 entry per adult, a trip to the museum represents remarkable value for money.
If you find yourself in this part of East Kent then do your best to visit.
More details can be found on the Museums excellent website here: http://www.rafmanston.co.uk/index.php