The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, recognised as East Anglia's Aviation Heritage Centre, is run entirely by volunteers, with one paid staff member. It is a Registered Charity, a Limited Company and an Accredited Museum.
The collection early in 2013 comprised 65 aircraft (including cockpits), and more than 30,000 smaller artefacts. 11 aircraft and 6 cockpits are displayed outdoors but everything else is on view within themed buildings for the Royal Observer Corps No. 6 Group, the 446th (H) Bomb Group USAAF, RAF Bomber Command, RAF Air-Sea Rescue & Coastal Command, and local aviation from the pioneer years to the present day. There are also numerous exhibitions on special subjects including WWII Decoy Crews, Boulton & Paul Norwich, RAF Link Trainers, aerial photography, radio/radar/electronic counter measures, the Home Front, and Luftwaffe wreckology. Facilities include a Shop, Archive & Library, snack area (NAAFI), picnic tables, and a raised boardwalk to the river through a Willow plantation - the Adair Walk.
The idea for an aviation museum to preserve and promote the regionís aviation history was initially conceived by half a dozen aviation enthusiasts in the Bungay area late in 1972. Following coverage in the local press, the first public meeting of The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Society was held early the following year, attracting 25 attendees. The first display premises to be used were a Nissen hut behind the Flixton Post Office but within a year it became obvious that this could not be a permanent home as 5,500 people had visited. Jim Patterson, an ex-World War One pilot, ran the Post Office at the time and was as surprised as the rest of the Society at the interest shown. He understandably had reservations about so many people invading his back garden as he lost most of his lettuces that year under trampling feet! It took another couple of years before membersí efforts were rewarded with larger premises.
After considering other sites for relocation (including Seething Control Tower, Tibenham and Ellough), Andrew Gilham, then landlord of Flixton's pub - The Buck Inn - provided the solution (Alan Breeze, the popular singer with the Billy Cotton Band had been an earlier owner). Andrew offered the use of two small meadows to the rear of the pub together with a barn. The offer was accepted, although much effort and hard work was needed to make the venue suitable for housing the displays and storage. The enthusiasm and spirit of the members ensured that the job was completed in time for the new facility to be opened to the public on 24th April 1975.
By 1978, the Society had changed its name to The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum (N&SAM), and Wing Commander Ken Wallis, who developed the Wallis Autogyro and built "Little Nellie" famously flown by him when doubling as James Bond in the film "You Only Live Twice", had become our President.
In 1984, the Museum purchased almost 8 acres of meadow behind the Buck Inn and commenced a steady, and continuing, programme of erecting buildings to accommodate the collection. Sadly, the plot had never been part of the Bungay/Flixton airfield so was without any aviation significance. The main hangar came from Matlaske in North Norfolk, the 1937 Boulton & Paul Hangar was rescued from Ipswich Airport in 2000 with the help of the local council, and the Ken Wallis Hall was built and opened in 2010. Most of the buildings around our site had an aviation-linked usage of one sort or another before we received them. Capital projects such as these require financial support from grants of course, and then we usually need to match-fund from our reserves. Two major bequests were received a few years ago, and these totally unexpected boosts to income proved to be invaluable - it is regretted that we never actually knew the individuals so can only presume they had been visitors. We are sometimes approached by family members of deceased volunteers and visitors to allow tree-planting in memory of their loved-ones, and an avenue of remembrance has evolved along the Adair Walk.
The Museum's collecting policy in the early days was simple - if it was available and we could both afford and accommodate it, we would have it. In recent years this has become much more focused to the Anglia region. Aircraft, equipment, uniforms, engines, models, records and a myriad of other artefacts, have been steadily acquired over the years, almost entirely by the generosity of donors. The range of exhibits is now extremely wide and cannot fail to be of interest to the most discerning of visitors - no matter taste or interest. Museum Chairman Ian Hancock displays his own aircraft at Flixton on a permanent basis, a few other aircraft are on loan, but the majority were purchased/acquired by the Museum in the early days - often in poor condition.
Owing to the need to preserve space for car parking, the opportunity to add new buildings is now very limited but we do have thoughts on some modest expansion in due course, to include education and meeting rooms. Unfortunately, our location makes it difficult to purchase extra land immediately adjacent to our site. Our rural location, however, in the picturesque Waveney Valley does provide a very tranquil and attractive village setting.
We are often asked how we survive in the absence of making an admission charge - we have never charged for entry. Careful budgeting and monitoring by the Trustees at regular review meetings ensure that the income from light refreshments, the shop, bricabrac, and donations is wisely allocated and we do not overstretch ourselves. Consequently, wages, utilities, site maintenance and other essential costs must come before restoration and conservation projects. We are exceptionally fortunate, however, that our volunteers possess almost all of the skills required for us to operate as a successful museum/visitor centre without going outside. It is also a measure of the success and appeal of the Museum that the public has always been generous enough to keep it going - with circa 40,000 visitors a year enjoying what we have on offer.
Other pages in this website expand upon what we have and what we do, and new subjects will be added in due course.