Air museum’s high hopes for future

Lytham St Annes Spitfire Museum, Blackpool Airport, held an open day at the weekend. Visitors were treated to talks on aerial combat, history displays plus two Spitfires, a Hurricane and various RAF military vehicles. Volunteer Mark Gaskell with one of the Spitfires. Picture by Paul Heyes, Saturday August 20, 2016.

Lytham St Annes Spitfire Museum, Blackpool Airport, held an open day at the weekend. Visitors were treated to talks on aerial combat, history displays plus two Spitfires, a Hurricane and various RAF military vehicles. Volunteer Mark Gaskell with one of the Spitfires. Picture by Paul Heyes, Saturday August 20, 2016.

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Campaigners behind a new Blackpool museum project say 2017 could be a crucial year for its future.

The growing Fylde Coast Museum of Aviation and Aircraft Manufacturing project is later this month to throw open the doors of its Hanger 42 base at Squires Gate for the last time this year.

But its owners said next year will see big changes, with potential new owners of the airport, 1940s dance nights and tie-ups for the museum with others nationally and internationally to share exhibits.

John Coombes, from the Lytham St Annes Spitfire Display Team, which is piloting the project, said progress is being made thanks to donations from visitors to the open days.

He said work has been carried out to spruce up the side rooms at the 1940s hangar and the team were hoping that the museum could be used as an out of school classroom for primary pupils studying the Second World War in their history projects.

He said: “We are holding our last public visitor day for 2016 on Sunday, October 30 from 11am to 4pm.

“But we will have more next year and are going to be staging dance nights with authentic 1940s music.” Airport owners Balfour Beatty put the land and airport operating company on the market at the start of October.

Mr Coombes added: “The owners have put the airport up for sale so all the existing businesses here are hoping for a bright future with its aviation heritage.

“To be fair to the current owners they have been very helpful to us so far.

“Obviously it will be a key time for our museum but we will look forward to work with whoever takes over.

“We would like to get our public access issues sorted out on a more permanent basis so we can have the museum open to the public more frequently.

“If people are planning to come on October 30 I would ask that they turn up on the hour or half past the hour due to the access issues and we will meet them and bring them down to the hangar.

“We have had offers from several other museums about bringing in exhibits.

“We have been talking to a museum in Holland and to RAF Cosford.

“The exciting thing for us will be the seven 1940s dances next year. We will re-create the real atmosphere of a wartime dance with the spitfires and hurricanes and Second World War vehicles inside.

“There will be a bar for over 18s and an opportunity to be transported back to the 1940’s when RAF Squires Gate and the USAAF Base Air Depot 2 at Warton were in full swing.”

The museum boasts three spitfires, a hurricane and a collection of RAF military vehicles. It aims to raise awareness of Squire’s Gate’s role in the Second World War.