Dexter has always had a love of transport since he was very young. Trains mainly but he loves anything that moves on water, ground or in the sky so when we were given the opportunity to take him to IWM Duxford to see and airshow for the day so close to his birthday, we couldn’t say no. Liam was equally as excited and couldn’t to show off his plane knowledge. I knew this would be a great day out for the both of them. We received tickets for the May bank holiday, a programme and a goody bag in exchange for this exciting and honest review of our day.
Our trip started as most trips with children do.. late and rushed! The night before, we had planned on an early night but when we were getting everything ready we discovered the memory card for the camera had given up and we spent hours driving around Peterborough for some ear defenders for Paisley (huge thank you to my cousin Kelly for lending us her daughters pair) We finally set off about 2 hours later than we had planned but the journey was relatively smooth and we got the with very little trouble, despite being taken a long way round by the event signs.
Upon arrival we headed to the media tent for our passes and program and then made our way to Airspace, where you can get up close to some of the most famous aircraft in the world.
Where else can you climb onboard the Concorde, look out of the window and see a Lancaster and a Vulcan?
We jumped in a lift and headed upstairs. Here we found lots of interactive thingy-ma-jigs and educational bits. You can test your skills as a pilot, learn abut the materials used in building the aircrafts even have a go at flying a hot air balloon and helicopter (model ones of course). All of this really appealed to Liam’s geeky nature and Dexter had great fun turning all the dials and pressing all the buttons. I just loved taking a step back and watching them explore it all together. There were a few seats dotted about so while they were having a good look around I took the opportunity to give Paisley a quick feed.
From the balcony you can see all of the planes in the hangar. Some of them hang suspended from the ceiling with many more on the ground so we walked round viewing them from the top before heading downstairs the opposite side of the building. Down here you are able to purchase a boarding pass for £3 for an adult and under 3’s are free(I’m sorry I cant remember how much a child ticket was). This entitles you to board 4 of the planes inside the hangar and a further 6 outside. Liam and Dexter went off to board the Concorde first. Liam said it was smaller inside than he’d imagined it to be and took this picture of the cabin. We took it in turns to use the boarding pass, I took Dexter next on the C1 and then Liam took him on the Comet. While we were there, we were also lucky enough to watch a demonstration of the Concorde dipping it’s nose. The Concorde was built streamlined for supersonic flight but the shape of the nose restricted the pilot’s view. By allowing it to drop during different amounts at different stages of flight enabled the pilots to see what was going on during take off and landing.
It was getting close to lunchtime by this point so we head back towards the car for our picnic. We decided to eat it in the car as it was a bit cold and windy. After we’d eaten, I fed Paisley while Liam and Dexter went on the play area near by that was shaped as a Lancaster Bomber that even had a pilot seat.
By this time, the airshow was ready to start so we made our way to other other end of the run way where the planes would take off. Each plane went passed us as it got ready for its display so we had a really good view of them before taking off. The program was really useful as it showed pictures of all of the planes participating so we knew what we were watching.
Dexter was really excited as the planes went passed. We heard a lot of “Cor, look at that Errflane”(Airplane). He was so impressed and we were in fits of giggles listening and watching him.
One of our favourite planes to watch was Sally B – the last remaining airworthy Boeing B-17 in Europe. Sally B has appeared in a number of films including Memphis Belle. Built in 1945 with a max speed of 287 mph she is now in her 41st display season at Duxford.
For a few hours we stood and watched several planes dance about in the sky, making patterns with smoke, showing off the volume of their engines and doing daredevil stunts. You will need ear defenders for young children. Whilst they are not sold in the gift shops, there are several trade stands that sell them on the day. I didn’t get a good look but I assume these were all adult ones, so for babies I really recommend coming prepared. As their sculls are yet to fully form you don’t want to cause any damage by using the wrong ones. With her bright pink ear defenders on, Paisley slept through most of the display so they obviously did the job. Dexter had a pair with him too which he thought made him look cool but he only really needed them for the Typhoon which was by far the loudest in the display.
After watching many of the planes we figured we’d take a break try and get in some more of the exhibitions before it was all over. There is so much to see, I think it is really a trip that warrants two visits, one to look at everything and another for the air show.
We made our way into Land Warfare where everything was part of a war themed landscape. The detail was incredible. There were all sorts of tanks and army vehicles. Even the toilets were labelled latrines. The Normandy Experience was well thought out as you enter it as though you are coming off a boat just like the soldiers would have done. Here you can experience the weight of the soldiers packs, helmets and guns. At first I didn’t think the back pack was too heavy (I often carry a toddler) but when you combine it with his weapons and helmet you start to imagine how incredibly hard it must’ve been, especially to have to carry it all constantly.
We could tell at this point that Dexter was getting tired so we sat him in the buggy for a while and before we knew it, he was asleep! We still hadn’t seen the new American Air museum so we headed in that direction.
Like Airspace, they had a lot of planes on the floor and more suspended from the ceiling but they had other things too. I managed a little look downstairs so I got to watch an interactive display on what happened to the flights in America when planes hit the twin towers on 9:11. There was also some of the Twin Towers wreckage along with a part of the Berlin wall. I sat down to feed Paisley(again) while Dexter slept and Liam had a look at the rest of the exhibit. He was very impressed with the C47 and the SR71. I wish we’d had a bit more of a look around this one, especially as it is new but there is so much to see, I don’t think it’s possible to do it all in one day.
The last part of the air show was about to take place so we headed outside on our way back towards to the car and woke Dexter up so that he could see The Red Arrows.
Formed in 1965, The Red Arrows are now in their 52nd display season. With a max speed of 633 mph, their daring stunts and patriotic exhaust trails they are a fan favourite and loved by children and adults alike.
They have a busy season ahead of them which includes 4 days at the Bournemouth Air Display (I only know this as my friend is hoping they might fly over her wedding!) and then concludes back at Duxford in September for the ‘Meet the Fighters’ display.
Dexter loved watching the coloured smoke and when the team broke up into small displays we didn’t know where to look! The control and precision of the flying was absolutely fantastic and I ended up with a lot of pictures of smoke trails from them speeding through my shots. But I did at least get a couple..
Once the display had ended we had a little look around the gift shop. Dexter wanted EVERYTHING! We made sure we each had a souvenir of the day, mine was a pen, Liam’s was a keyring, Paisleys was a postcard for the family scrapbook (she insisted! haha) and Dexter got a flag… and a flying mustang that hangs from the ceiling and flies in circles.
As part of our day out we also received a goody bag. It included 4 items for Dexter. The foam Spitfire with the catapult flies really well so we’ll be keeping it on the buggy for taking to the park. The mini gliders are great for flying indoors and the cats absolutely love attacking them as they land! I bet the real life pilots never had to deal with that kind of attack.
The fighter jet actually lights up and makes sounds. It’s got 2 buttons on the back and Dexter has been playing with that one quite and bit and the Airfix quick build spitfire is actually like lego! Dexter got loads of lego for his birthday last week and it is now his new favourite thing so I’ve left this one aside for him and Liam to build together. Liam has built a few Airfix models when he was younger so it seems only fair to leave that one for him.
Overall, we had a fantastic day out. There is absolutely loads to see (apart from the planes) as there are some bits we didn’t manage to get round including a 1940’s Operations room and loads of trade stands. All of the facilities are well kept and suitable for families and wheelchairs. Toilets and baby changing is available and clean and easily locatable. There is also a restaurant and cafe along with plenty of space for picnics and parking is free. If you do get the chance of a visit, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. IWM Duxford gets a big thumbs up from us!