Duxford Building 7 - American Air Museum - Page 1

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     3 : Indoor Displays
    4 : Outdoor Displays

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THE AMERICAN AIR MUSEUM was designed by Sir Norman Foster and Chris Wise at Arup. The museum's specification called for a landmark building that would provide a neutral backdrop for the aircraft collection and provide appropriate climatic controls while being cost efficient to operate.

The building is formed with a curved concrete roof and the dimensions of the building were dictated by the need to accommodate the museum's very large B-52 Stratofortress bomber with its 200 ft wingspan and a tail 52 ft high.

The roof weighs 6000 tonnes and is able to support suspended aircraft weighing up to 10 tonnes. A glass wall, demountable to permit aircraft to be rearranged, allows in daylight, which reduces lighting costs, and enables the aircraft to be seen from the outside. It also allows visitors inside the museum to watch aircraft landing or taking off.The lack of supporting columns allows aircraft to hang from the ceiling while heavier aircraft stand on the floor of the building.

Construction began with the building of abutments in October 1995 and the roof was completed in September 1996.

The building won the 1998 Stirling Prize for Foster and Partners and was described by the judges as "a great big, clear span hangar of a building...dramatic, awe-inspiring, an object of beauty...simple yet replete with imagery."

The American Air Museum was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 1 August 1997. The museum was re-dedicated on 27 September 2002, in a ceremony attended by former President George H. W. Bush and by Prince Charles.

Since being opened, the museum has had its glass front removed and then reinstalled to allow the entrance of an SR-71 Blackbird and B-24 Liberator, both of which may be viewed on later pages of this website.

The SR-71 Blackbird Serial Number 61-7962 (right) is the only example of its type on display outside the United States. It set a flight altitude record of 85,069 feet in July 1976. Besides the Blackbird, nineteen other American aircraft are on display.

Notable examples include a C-47 Skytrain which flew with the 316th Troop Carrier Group and participated in three major Second World War airborne operations i.e. the June 1944 Normandy landings, 'Operation Market Garden' and 'Operation Varsity', the airborne crossing of the River Rhine in March 1945.

The museum's B-29 flew during the Korean War as part of the 7th Bomb Wing and is the only example in Europe and just one of two preserved in museums outside the United States.
The B-52 flew 200 sorties during the Vietnam War as part of the 28th Bomb Wing.
The General Dynamics F-111 on display flew 19 missions during the 1991 Gulf War while attached to the 77th Fighter Squadron.


Grumman named the TBF-1, the new torpedo bomber for the US Navy, 'Avenger' on the day that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought the USA into World War Two. It proved to be correctly named since it played a major part in the sinking of over 60 ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

A total of 9,836 Avengers were produced by Grumman and General Motors (Eastern Aircraft Division).

Two features made the Avenger outstanding. It was the first single-engined American aircraft to incorporate a power-operated gun turret, and the first to carry the heavy 22 inch torpedo. It could also carry bombs, rockets, and depth charges.

Torpedo attacks by Avengers played the predominant role in the sinking of the largest battleships ever built, the Musashi and Yamato, in October 1944 and April 1945 respectively. The Avenger entered Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm service in January 1943 and the British Pacific Fleet's Avengers made devastating attacks on oil refineries in support of the Americans' final drive on Japan in 1945.

The Avenger on display is painted to represent the TBM flown by President George Bush when, as a Lieutenant, he served with the US Navy in the Pacific during 1944. He named the aircraft 'Barbara' after his wife.


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