In case you have never visited the Solway Aviation Museum, it’s the home of a collection of aircraft, aviation artifacts and displays that show how Britain was a world leader in aircraft design and innovation at the beginning of the jet age and the role Cumbria played during the War and the years after it ended. Noteworthy Solway exhibits include a 52-ton B2 Vulcan bomber (one of only 16 left in the world), a Phantom and an English Electric Canberra T4 WE188 – a high-altitude, jet-powered medium bomber that was intended to replace the Mosquito.
However, the volunteer staff who has built up the museum’s collection over the last 50 years are concerned about plans by Stobart Air to convert the site into a 394,000 sq ft distribution centre as well as plans to upgrade its civil aviation facilities. Moreover, restrictions on the museum’s lease prevents it from applying for funding.
The museum has been offered a five-year lease with an option that would give them six months notice to quit should the owners deem it necessary but that restriction probably still means its unlikely they will ever win the funding needed to expand the museum. And should they be forced to move, the Vulcan, the Canberra and the twin engine Percival Sea Prince would likely need to be scrapped.
However, the Solway Aviation Museum already attracts more than 4,000 visitors a year but volunteers believe they could double that number if they had the funds to upgrade the facilities plus its also one of the few remaining airport museums in the UK that is managed by a registered charity.
Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart has already pledged to find a way for the museum to continue operating at the site and it should be noted that Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler has stated that he has no issue with the museum staying at its current site as there are no plans to build on that plot of land but any proposed long-term lease would have to be approved by the Stobart Group board.
Hence, let’s hope some kind of compromise can be worked out that would allow for the airport to expand while giving the museum a more solid foothold so they can upgrade their facilities and exhibits.