Aviation Society named as Lisburn’s top tourist attraction

A Puma helicopter outside the hangars of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) at the Maze/Long Kesh site, Lisburn.  It's one of 35 aircraft in the Society's collection, which is open for group tours most of the year.
A Puma helicopter outside the hangars of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) at the Maze/Long Kesh site, Lisburn. It's one of 35 aircraft in the Society's collection, which is open for group tours most of the year.

Ireland’s largest collection of historic aircraft has recently received a prestigious award as the top go-to visitor location in the Lisburn area.

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel site, presented its Certificate of Excellence to the Ulster Aviation Society, which for the past six months has topped the chart’s list of 26 things to do in Lisburn.

“We’re very pleased with the award,” said UAS Chairman Ray Burrows. “It’s an international recognition not only of our collection, but of the effort which our volunteers have demonstrated for years.”

The tribute from TripAdvisor is based on comments it has received from visitors to the Society’s collection, which is housed in two large heritage hangars at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

A total of 128 unsolicited references have been sent to the travel site, and 127 of them gave the Society five stars for excellence.

“There was one sender who judged us only as ‘very good,’ so we’re obviously far from perfect,” laughed Mr. Burrows. “We’d like to track that person down, so we can find out how to improve our collection and our service!”

Mr. Burrows noted that many people consider the collection of some 35 aircraft and other aviation exhibits a hidden gem among Northern Ireland’s museums.

This is because the collection is not advertised to the general public.

“We’re basically restricted to welcoming group tours. Last year we had about 120 tours of the hangars, and sometimes we get more requests than we can handle,” said Mr. Burrows.

He explained that the Society’s tour guides find they are often needed at events away from the hangars, when as many as four aircraft and other ex-hibits are transported to festivals and air shows elsewhere in Northern Ireland. The Society has received invitations from more than 20 such events this year.

Whether in the hangars or attending outside events, the Society’s guides encourage visitors to climb into some of the aircraft to get a pilot’s-eye view of the machines.

And during hangar tours, guests can chat with volunteers who are busy restoring some of the equipment.

“We like to think that those kinds of experiences have made us as popular as we are,” said Mr. Burrows. “The challenge now will be to constantly live up to the excellent billing provided by TripAdvisor.”

Some of the comments from pleased visitors read: “They have put together what is possibly the best exhibition in Northern Ireland.”

“A place where you could spend days and never be bored. A must visit for anyone.”

“We were made to feel quite special, staff great and very knowledgeable.”

The Ulster Aviation Society is a registered charity. Tours can be arranged through the website at www.ulsteraviationsociety.org or by telephone: 079 7450 2319 or 028 9048 0747.