On Saturday, 16th July the BHS had a guided visit to the Portuguese Air Force Museum at Air Force Base 1, Granja do Marqûes, Sintra followed by the annual picnic hosted by our Chairman and his wife, Clive and Emma Gilbert at their home in Colares, Sintra.
Twenty four of our members were met by Cabo Bruno Pedro, a serving Portuguese airman, for a guided tour of the Museum (Museu do Ar in Portuguese), which has additional sections in Alverca and Ovar. He explained that the Sintra section, where most of the aircraft are stored in the 3,000 sq metre main hangar, was inaugurated in 2009. The Museum won the prize for best Portuguese museum in 2013.
Cabo Bruno Pedro explained that it is the only aeronautical museum in the country. The museum’s permanent exhibit presents planes, propellers, instrument panels, navigation equipment and many other objects that testify to the evolution of aviation in Portugal. Worth highlighting is the renowned British single-seat fighter the Spitfire, as well as the Tiger Moth, a biplane for elementary practice and the Widgeon, a twin-engine amphibious plane. There are also replicas of famous planes dating back to the beginning of the aviation era, including that of Brazilian Santos Dumont’s first un-assisted powered flight in 1923, as well as more recent jets such as the F-86 Sabre. He also showed us a Dakota DC3 that had been used at the Normandy Landings. José Oulman was at the controls of a Spitfire which flew over the beaches of Normandy during D-Day and was escorting the transport planes of Operation Market Garden. See following link:
About 42 aircraft are presented, together with photos and artefacts that document the first 100 years of military and civilian aviation in Portugal. The historic hangars, built in the 1920s, present some of the aircraft used during the Colonial Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea between 1961 and 1974. The other rooms present the history of the Portuguese airline TAP Portugal, ANA (Airport Authority), and Portuguese aviation pioneers.
Other interesting aircraft that can be seen at the museum include the Junkers JU52 (1930), the Avro Cadet (1931), the DH-87 Hornet (1934), the DH-89 Dragon Rapide (1934), and the DC-3 Dakota (1935).
Cabo Pedro also pointed out a cabinet with the history and a photo of Paula Cristina de Paiva Ferreira e Costa, the first Portuguese woman to take the "brevet" of pilot in the Aviation School in 1927 at the Granja do Marquês in Sintra and Isabel Manuela Teixeira Bandeira de Mello Rilvas! who formed the first group of female military parachutist nurse. See below for more information:
During our visit two of our members, Martin Von Beck and Pedro de Avillez recalled that they had both learnt to fly Tiger Moths as civilian pilots, as part of Salazar's initiative to create a pool of experienced pilots in case of an emergency.
After the tour ended, we were able to look around other parts of the museum and in particular the section of photos of famous people who had passed through Lisbon airport in the 1950/60s: Sophia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rudolf Nureyev, and Robert Wadlow – the tallest man recorded at the time - to name but a few.
See the websites below for more information:
Portuguese Association of Museology - http://www.apom.pt/pagina,47,73.aspx
Portuguese Air Force - http://www.emfa.pt/www/index
Air Museum - http://www.museudoar.pt/
See the link below regarding the history of the Spitfire. Co-incidentally I was born in Southampton, although after the war, but one of the reasons Southampton was badly bombed during the war, besides its dockyards, was the Spitfire factory at Woolston. I had relatives who worked on the Spitfire and when the factory was badly bombed, garden sheds etc. all over Southampton were converted into makeshift workshops for parts of the Spitfire to be made and then assembled elsewhere.
At the end of the visit, Mark Crathorne thanked Cabo Pedro for his excellent explanation of the exhibits etc., in the museum and we all boarded the bus for our journey to the Gilbert’s residence for our annual picnic in the shade of the cork trees in their lovely garden.
The British Historical Society of Portugal regularly organises cultural and historic visits and lectures- for further information see: www.bhsportugal.org