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Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus: A life of a Pioneering Aviator

24th March 2016 - 31st December 2017

Sir Alan Cobhams Flying Circus

Location: Temporary Exhibition Gallery, Hangar 1 


Sir Alan Cobham was a pioneering long distance aviator and technical innovator who became famous for his exploits in the interwar years by making aviation accessible and popular throughout the world. 

He learnt to fly while in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and later went on to set many long distance aviation records. 

These include becoming the first person to fly from London to Cape Town and back in 1926 for which he received the Air Force Cross, and in the same year to be the first person to fly from London to Australia and back, for which he was knighted by King George V.

Sir Alan Cobham also organised a series of flying tours of the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa which became affectionately known as ‘Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus’. These tours promoted aviation to the public and were a source of inspiration for countless pilots in the Second World War.

One such pilot who had his first flight with Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus was Spitfire fighter ace Flight Lieutenant Eric Stanley Lock who was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. He was credited with 26 confirmed victories and received the Distinguished Service Order for, ‘his magnificent fighting spirit and personal example which have been in the highest traditions of the service’. 

This exhibition is a highly visual display of Sir Alan Cobham’s life and his many notable achievements, showcasing some of the ‘treasures’ from the collection including a Union Flag that was flown on Cobham's de Havilland D.H.50J biplane while on his Cape Town flight. The exhibition will also feature film footage that will show how he made aviation into a breathtaking spectacle.

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