The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford

Books about RAE Bedford

This page is a guide to the published books about RAE Bedford under the auspices of the Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group.

The listing is in order of publication.

Wings Over Thurleigh

Ed. M D Dobson

Wings Over Thurleigh describes the history and the legacy of Thurleigh Airfield at RAE Bedford from its beginnings until its closure in 1994. It records the establishment structure, the research aircraft and its facilities. The work programmes and their outcome over the lifespan of the establishment are described. The book was produced by an editorial team and first published in 2001, reprinted during 2010 and is now in its 3rd edition. Minor corrections were made to the text and many additional photographs were included. Numerous photographs and illustrations complement the text of 243 pages.

ISBN 978-0-9541594-0-5

Please email:

Wind Beneath the Wings

M D Dobson

This book complements the previously published book ‘Wings Over Thurleigh’ (above). It traces the evolution of the Bedford wind tunnels from the earliest thoughts on supersonic flow in RAE, via a ‘German connection’, through to their construction at Bedford. A description of the five main working wind tunnels which provided a speed range from 80 mph to Mach 5 is provided, with numerous photographs and illustrations complementing its 133 pages. It also details some of the experimental facilities for flight research on Thurleigh Airfield.

ISBN 978-0-9541594-1-2

Touch Down Safely

R Bruce Lumsden

The story of All Weather Approach and Landing research and the flight trials at RAE Bedford. The book is part historical, part technical and part autobiographical. The book recalls a number of major experimental programmes and some personal recollections of life at RAE Bedford. The work focused on the challenges of landing aircraft safely in all weather conditions. Its 467 pages are illustrated with photographs, diagrams and charts, which show the results of the various trials and experiments undertaken.

ISBN 978-1-9999174-0-1

Blind Landing : A History

R Bruce Lumsden

‘Blind Landing’ is a history of the development of blind and automatic landing to enable aircraft to operate in in poor visibility conditions. The book covers the early flight research conducted prior to and post WWI, including the work on unmanned aircraft. The requirement to recover bombers returning to fog-bound bases in Britain in WWII, and later the increasing requirements of military operations to counter the Soviet threat, maintained the pace of development, particularly in the USA and the UK with the RAE’s Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU) at Bedford. The arrival of jet powered airliners with increased landing speeds and the need for greater safety and operational reliability then led to airline operations in a range of poor weather conditions with the Trident, Caravelle, B727 and Concorde aircraft and the later fly by wire flight control and head up display solutions for the Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer current range of aircraft.

ISBN 978-1-999174-1-8

Price £30 plus £5 postage and packing (UK only, other countries available on request); Aeroplane Magazine review January 2023.

Please email: or

The Life of the Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford

M D Dobson

This publication takes a broader look at RAE Bedford and deals particularly with the personnel and social matters rather than the scientific and engineering aspects of the work. While the existence of the Establishment and its facilities enabled the research, the huge technical success which it achieved was due to the dedicated efforts of the many scientists, engineers, aircrew, and skilled support staff who worked there. The book’s 264 pages supplement the previous publications (see above) and thereby complete a reasonably comprehensive historical record of the Establishment from its creation in the 1940s to its closure in the 1990s.

ISBN 978-0-9541594-2-9

Please email:

The Challenges of Fly-by-Wire

Gerard T Shanks

A historical record of the Fly-by-Wire programmes conducted by the RAE from the early 1960s up to the millennium and their relationship with industry. It describes how these programmes led to the direct application of FBW to the Tornado aircraft design, and then into the 1970s and the digital age, by industry and RAE, through the Fly-by-Wire Jaguar and the Experimental Aircraft Programme. These programmes provided sufficient confidence to apply the technology to the Eurofighter Typhoon. The story completes with a description of the VAAC Harrier programme, the product of which was selected by Lockheed for the flight control system of the Joint Strike Fighter, F35-B Lightning II aircraft.

ISBN 978-0-9541594-3-6

The Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford, its Technological Contribution to the Design of the Concorde Supersonic Transport Aircraft

M D Dobson

As the leading research establishment for experimental aerodynamics in the UK, the information generated by RAE Bedford in support of the design of the Supersonic Transport Aircraft, which was to become Concorde, was truly enormous. This work was enabled by the Establishment’s advanced wind tunnels and flight test aircraft, some of which were built specifically for the research purpose. The scope of the work ranged from the basic wing design through to the creation of autopilot control laws to manage a required climb profile; one which was generally too complex for a pilot to handle but necessary for the economic operation of the aircraft. At one stage virtually the whole of the Establishment’s work force was engaged directly or indirectly on the Project. This book seeks to provide an historical record of that involvement by drawing together and reviewing all of the research and development programmes which RAE Bedford so successfully undertook.

ISBN 978-0-9541594-4-3

Please email:

Eighty Years of Thurleigh Airfield: A Pictorial Record of the Airfield and its Aircraft

M D Dobson

This book is essentially a catalogue of photographs of the airfield and the many aircraft, both resident and visiting, which used it over the period from its handing over to the Royal Air Force in 1940 to the present day, where it remains in operation as a Civil Aviation Authority licenced airfield. The book runs to 80 pages in C5 size (16.2cm x 22.9cm) and cites some 85 different aircraft types. Photographs are mainly from the archive of the Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group whose agreement to their use is gratefully acknowledged. Much of the descriptive narrative is presented in the form of captions to the photographs with limited supporting passages only where further explanation seemed necessary.

ISBN 978-9541594-8-9

Please email:

The Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford, RIP

M D Dobson

Mike Dobson’s most recently produced book,  with the somewhat macabre title RAE Bedford RIP. The sixth book in a series which began with the publication of ‘Wings Over Thurleigh twenty years ago, it brings to a conclusion a reasonably comprehensive historical account of the Establishment and its achievements. The book looks at the state of both the wind tunnel and airfield sites as they exist today and, in particular, highlights the dereliction internally and externally of many of the once proud buildings – brought about by the forces of nature, fire and human neglect. Primarily an album of colour photographs with supporting narration.

ISBN 978-9541594-7-0

Please email:


Saturdays, Sundays and
Bank Holiday Mondays
10.00am - 4.00pm


The 2024 Wind Tunnel Tour Season waiting list is OPEN. The 2024 Wind Tunnel Tour Season runs from 31st March to 27th October 2024. Details at Wind Tunnel Tours>>


FAST Talks have now resumed, please see FAST Events for details.


Trenchard House
85 Farnborough Road
Hampshire GU14 6TF

Tel: 01252 375050
(Office manned Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holiday Mondays)

Arts Council Accredited Museum