25-Jan-2016 Source: The Helicopter Museum
The Helicopter Museum at Weston-super-Mare in Somerset has entered a £3 million bid with the UK Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to build new facilities for the collection and its visitors. The museum, which holds the world’s largest line-up of rotary-wing aircraft has set itself a £1 million fund raising target to match-fund a £2 million request to the HLF.
The museum was officially opened to the public by HRH Prince Andrew in 1989, with temporary buildings providing initial display space and visitor facilities. Since then the museum has built hangarage to house a growing collection of aircraft, together with workshops for restoration, archives and education space. However the original temporary buildings, which include a former mobile home used for offices and a Pratten building which houses introductory displays, admission, retail and catering, are now well past repair and need replacing.
The museum wants to replace the structures with a new frontage building, which can offer additional space for artefacts and meet the demands of a growing number of visitors, as well as providing new educational facilities for colleges and schools teaching science and technology subjects. The trustees are also keen to construct a new “sponsor” hangar on the site, to house aircraft currently stored outdoors in the local saline environment and to extend the restoration work. This will include the rebuild of a rare Piasecki H-21 “Flying Banana” recently discovered in mainland Europe, and restoration of an early Whirlwind helicopter, which found fame in a Beatles movie in the 1960s. This hangar is costed at £300,000 and the museum is open to naming it after a major donor, if one comes forward.
Earlier in 2015 the museum was successful in a bid to the Coastal Communities Fund for funding towards the restoration of the original 1935 airfield control tower and 1940 Pilots Block, which are now being converted to tell the wider history of aviation in the town, which included aircraft manufacturing during the war years and subsequent until 2002, and Royal Air Force training and trials work over a similar period.