Museum takes visitors on a flight back in time
Published Date: 03 September 2010

ULSTER’S rich aviation heritage was given its own permanent base yesterday.
Supporters say that Magilligan Point near Limavady is the perfect location for the new museum, which features rare photos, documents and fuselage from the wreckage of aircrafts and, bizarrely, memorabilia from Richard Branson’s doomed hot-air balloon.

The first woman to fly across the Atlantic touched down in Londonderry in 1932.

And as a proud Norman Thorpe revealed, the museum is based “at the very location where Harry Ferguson took to the skies in 1909”, making many flights from Magilligan strand.

Mr Thorpe, who is the secretary of the Shackleton and Aviation Museum, said he hoped the new centre would open up the “vast history of aircarft” to tourists and the wider public.

“This museum really focuses on the 22 World War Two airfields across Northern Ireland, but there is also so much more besides,” he said.

Visitors will be entralled by many of the more unusual stories at the museum, which include the dramatic rescue of 10 survivors from a Russian factory ship in 1991, who were flown by helicopters from Scotland to Ballykelly and then on to Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry.

For Mr Thorpe and his fellow enthusiasts, it has been a “long journey and a lot of hard work to get here to this day”.

“We are all thrilled and very proud to have our very own museum.

“I think the more people find out about this unique history, the more amazed they will be.”

Famous people to have touched down in Londonderry include Amelia Earhart who landed in Ballyarnett in 1932.

General Italo Balbo and 24 flying boats of the Italian Air Force made a scheduled refuelling stop in Lough Foyle in 1933 and Virgin Boss Richard Branson touched down outside Limavady in a hot air balloon in 1987.

Founded in 2009 by Norman and Sylvia Thorpe, Dave Bishop and Kathleen Bishop, the local Shackleton group – named after the famous Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton – quickly assembled a dedicated group of friends and relatives.

With the Eglinton Flying Club, The Ulster Gliding Club, and other aviation enthusiasts on board, the group soon assembled the stunning collection of artefacts, which can now be viewed at Magilligan Point.

The museum is open between 11am to 5.30 pm seven days a week. For more information log onto .

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