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By Julian Nettlefold

26 Jul 08. Crowds flocked to the Scottish National Museum of Flight’s annual Airshow on July 26th.

There were more than two hours of breathtaking, high octane aerial displays, ranging from historic warbirds to contemporary military jets including the aerobatic skills of the Blades, the daring Guinot Wing Walkers and the thunderous return of the Eurofighter Typhoon. Veteran Second World War aircraft also made an appearance, including a Catalina Seaplane and Mustang, sadly fog grounded the Battle of Britain Flight at Newcastle Airport featuring the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster bomber.

The airfield was built in 1915 as part of a network to protect Britain from German Zeppelin airship attack during the First World War. The airfield was a base for both fighter aircraft, to destroy the Zeppelins, and British airships which operated in a coastal defence role. After the war, it was from East Fortune that the R34 airship departed for its double-crossing of the Atlantic (1919).

In 1922, a number of buildings and a portion of land, which had been part of the airfield, were given over to create the East Fortune Hospital. This acted as a tuberculosis sanatorium for the south east of Scotland. For the duration of World War II, the airfield was brought back into service, primarily as a training base, and the hospital patients were transferred to Bangour Hospital in West Lothian. After the War the hospital was re-instated, but by 1956, as the number of tuberculosis patients began to decrease, the hospital changed its function to house the mentally handicapped. The hospital closed in 1997 and the remaining patients were transferred to Roodlands Hospital (Haddington).
East Fortune operated as Edinburgh’s airport for a brief period in 1961 while facilities at Turnhouse were rebuilt. Buildings on the opposite side of the airfield from the hospital began to be used by the Royal Museum of Scotland for storage in 1971 and this developed into the Museum of Flight, which opened in 1975.

Today the runways are used for micro-lite flying and a regular market also takes place on the site. (Source Gazetteer of Scotland)

However the Museum also features four hangars showing Scotland’s heritage in aviation and flight. The East Fortune Flight previously housed the R101 airship and was an active station in Wordl war 2.

Starting with an original Pilcher Hawk hang-glider of 1896, the museum tells the story of flight up to the present day. It houses the largest collection of preserved aircraft in Scotland in the hangars and buildings of the historic airfield at East Fortune. The site is largely unchanged since 1945 and has been scheduled as an Ancient Monument. A number of rare exhibits not normally seen in museums are on display, including a Bristol Beaufighter, an F-4S Phantom II and one of the early Harrier GR.1s. Various rebuild projects are underway, including a Spitfire F.21 and a Bolingbroke. In addition to the range of aircraft on show, a large number of aero engines, rockets, models, weaponry and uniforms can be seen. Special events are staged throughout the year. In late 2006 the former Museum of Flight was renamed National Museum of Flight Scotland.

However what is missing is the crucial role Scottish scientists played in the development of radar

Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, FRS FRAeS (April 13, 1892–December 5, 1973), is considered by many to be the “inventor of radar”. Radar development was first started elsewhere , but Watson-Watt worked on some of the first workable radar systems, turning the theory into one of the most important war-winning weapons.
Born in Brechin in Angus, Scotland, he was a descendant of James Watt, the famous engineer and inventor of the practical steam engine.

Ferranti built a radar facility in Edinburgh on an ice rink site during the Second World War and this grew to the comprehensive Selex site today.

“In the 19

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