Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to visit the British Airways Heritage Centre, at their headquarters, near London Heathrow called Waterside.
Waterside is a few kilometres away from Terminal 5 and getting there is via one of the British Airways staff buses. My contact there gave me a letter to show to the driver so I could get on without a staff ID.
After a few minutes drive we arrived at the reception. IAG are in the process of testing out some rather cool looking autonomous vehicles and they were driving around the forecourt area.
I got checked in and escorted to the Heritage centre where they have an amazing collection of items going back to the pre-Imperial Airways days.
The exhibition starts back in 1919 where Air Transport & Travel Limited flew from Hounslow to Paris Le Bourget airport.
The range of models and exhibits on display was fascinating.
The exhibits continued into the post-war period when BEA (British European Airways) was formed, along with BSAA (British South American Airways).
The exhibit even included service items from a variety of Royal Flights.
There was also a substantial amount of exhibits and models from BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) showcasing their illustrious past.
The exhibit had a section devoted to the most magnificent civil aircraft every to fly, Concorde. I was lucky enough to travel on her back in 2003 and even have a video trip report which you can watch here.
The exhibit moved into the era after 1972 when BOAC and BEA merged to form what we now know to be British Airways. It also included some of the airlines that British Airways bought including British Caledonian, Dan Air and of course most recently British Midland International, who are still sorely missed.
The even had a model of a Go aircraft, the low cost carrier set up by Barbara Cassani in the early 2000s. This was at the time directly competing with the likes of easyJet and RyanAir with a fleet of aircraft out of Stansted. It was eventually sold by Rod Eddington, who was concerned it would confuse the main British Airways brand. Some interesting what-if’s if they’d decided to persevere with the project.
Finally, the exhibit moved on to the present day, including one of the first class seats, a model of the Airbus that carried the Olympic flame to London for the 2012 Olympics and even some aircraft yet to enter the fleet, such as an A350-1000, due in 2019.
Overall, I had a fantastic time and can’t thank the staff there enough for being gracious hosts.
The Heritage Centre is free to visit, however by appointment only. For details on visiting times and making an appointment, do visit their website and get in touch.