AN aircraft museum that aims to capture imaginations with a 'no barrier' approach has been recognised as among the best in the country.

Boscombe Down Aviation Collection was awarded accreditation by Arts Council England on October 5, which is the 'gold standard' benchmark for well-run museums and galleries in the UK.

Since opening at Old Sarum in 2012, the museum has expanded but remains relatively small compared to other accredited aviation attractions, such as the RAF Museum in London.

Accreditation is purely based on whether a museum can reach a set high standard and there is no leniency for scale so the 200 volunteers at BDAC are proud to celebrate the success.

Squadron Leader John Sharpe MBE, project director and creator of BDAC, said: "We're now on par with the big boys in the aviation world despite being relatively new kids on the block.

"We want to be recognised as a centre for heritage aviation that meets high standards and has a real story to tell, particularly about aviation in this area."

Salisbury Journal: Squadron Leader John Sharpe set up Boscombe Down Aviation Collection in 2012.Squadron Leader John Sharpe set up Boscombe Down Aviation Collection in 2012. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

The 81-year-old prides the museum on its knowledgeable group of volunteers, some of whom flew or engineered the aircraft during the Second World War.

"They can explain how a dent in an aircraft got there because they were flying it at the time. It forms a big part of the visitor experience at the museum," Sqd Ldr Sharpe added.

Arts Council accreditation will help secure the museum for future generations by opening funding opportunities since it will have a better chance of being successful when applying for grants.

Salisbury Journal: Engineers can be seen working on restoring a Lancaster B MK.1 Special.Engineers can be seen working on restoring a Lancaster B MK.1 Special. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

There are no barriers blocking guests from getting up close and sitting in the aircraft at BDAC which Sqd Ldr Sharpe said adds to the overall experience significantly.

"I have never supported the idea of barriers. I don't like telling kids 'don't touch' or 'you can't get in that'. You can't enthuse people by telling them they can't do something."

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Alan Lovering has been volunteering at the museum for five years and spent more than 30 years flying aircraft. He said: "We come from all sorts of different backgrounds.

"If people trigger me and I think they want to listen, I'll tell them stories. It makes it special for them which I think is great."

Salisbury Journal: Alan Lovering has plenty of stories to tell guests.Alan Lovering has plenty of stories to tell guests. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

To earn a spot in the museum, an aircraft must have either been involved with flights or testing at Boscombe Down or originate from the nearby area.

Sqd Ldr Sharpe started a small-scale museum at Boscombe Down when he retired from the RAF in 1998 to try and teach new recruits about aviation history.

His collection of artefacts grew and the museum was moved to Old Sarum to be opened up to the general public in July 2012.

The standard adult admission price is £9.50, children under 16 and concession tickets cost £8 and children under 5 go free. 

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