The principal objective of the museum at Cosford is to educate present and future generations about the Royal Air Force. The principal displays are of the aircraft flown since 1939 by the RAF, its allies and its enemies, and an exhibition about the Cold War housed in an innovative building opened in 2007.
The museum is important in several respects in the wider context of European industrial history. The ‘Test Flight’ section consists principally of experimental aircraft of the 1950s and 60s that helped to establish some of the technologies used in present-day airliners and military aircraft. They include the Fairy FD2 Delta, which flew between 1956 and 1966, and the Bristol 188, a two-engined stainless steel aircraft which took off for the first time in 1962, and for the last time in 1964, its endurance time having been proved to be no more than 25 minutes. The museum displays several aircraft of the types used by civilian airlines in the years between the end of the Second World War and the coming of jet airliners in the mid-1950s, although some are military versions. They include an Avro York, once used in the Berlin Airlift, a Douglas DC3 Dakota, a Junkers Ju52/3M, a De Havilland Comet 1A, a Handley Page Hastings (the military version of the Hermes airliner), and a Bristol Britannia 312.
The museum displays more than 60 aircraft as well as missiles, tanks and an assortment of civilian military vehicles.