Part of the National Museums of Scotland, this museum opened in 1975 on what had been a disused RAF airfield at East Fortune in East Lothian, 4 miles (6.5 km) south of North Berwick. The airfield was established in 1915 as a Royal Naval Air Station, to defend Edinburgh and the Forth Bridge from attack by German airships. After the war it saw a historic flight when the R34 airship (constructed by the Beardmore Engineering Co., Inchinnan) made a double crossing of the Atlantic. It left East Fortune on the 2nd July 1919 and landed at Mineola on Long Island (New York) on the 6th July, returning to complete the journey in Lincolnshire (England) on the 13th July. During World War II the airfield began as a support station for the nearby RAF Drem (of which only a few buildings remain) and then became a training base. It is now scheduled as a historic monument.
The Museum came about because the Royal Scottish Museum needed somewhere to store a World War II Spitfire fighter-plane it had been given by the Ministry of Defence in 1971. The Ministry therefore gave permission for the Museum to store this and other aeronautical exhibits at the former airfield. The Museum was able to expand its holdings when it acquired some of the Strathallan Collection which had been on display at Auchterarder, but was sold off in 1981.
Today, the museum displays around 50 aircraft, the largest being an Avro Vulcan bomber, together with aircraft engines, equipment, clothing, models and important aeronautical archives in two hangar-galleries. The oldest exhibit is the Hawk Glider, built by Percy Pilcher in 1896. In 2004, the museum acquired a Concorde (G-BOAA), the world's first supersonic passenger aircraft, decommissioned the previous year. This aeroplane was the first to enter commercial service in 1976 with British Airways and has become the central attraction of the 'Concorde Experience' which opened at the museum in 2005.