Imagine stepping on board a plane and instead of seeing row upon row of seats, you see a cabin split into sections, each holding no more than a dozen passengers.
In one section sit dining tables, complete with linen cloths, while another section replaces half of the available seating with bunk beds.
The ‘first class cabin' is not a cabin at all, but a private suite at the rear of the plane, with space to relax and enjoy your flight.
Welcome aboard the Yankee Clipper, a replica ‘flying boat', at the Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, Ireland.
The Foynes Flying Boat Museum & Maritime Museum takes you back to the time of the ‘flying boat', from 1939 to 1945, before land planes became the norm and flying lost its elegance.
Visiting the Foynes Flying Boat Museum
The Yankee Clipper made the first commercial passenger flight between New York and Europe, landing in Foynes in July 1939.
The ‘flying boats' needed a deep harbour for take off and landing, and the Shannon Estuary proved to be the perfect spot. Charles Lindbergh, who planned the commercial routes for Pan American (Pan Am), chose Shannon to be the permanent west European airport. But until the permanent airport could be built, a temporary airport was put in place at Foynes, near the mouth of the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick.
Located in the original Terminal Building, a visit to the Flying Boat Museum is an interesting lesson in aviation history.
A short introductory film in the authentic 1940's theater holds your attention as it offers a brief overview of the history of Atlantic flight.
Past the theater doors the exhibits are plentiful and wonderfully presented.
You'll learn about the pilots (one the husband of the museum's famous patron, more about her shortly!), the crew, the flights, and even the crashes.
The mix of documents, artifacts, uniforms, and even the complete Weather & Radio Room, are displayed in an engaging way, a charming mix of objects both interactive and inert.
Now, it's likely young children won't be as fascinated by this history as you are. My daughters (ages 9 & 7 during our visit) gave it a fair shot, interested for a few minutes, but not nearly long enough for me to read the clippings and imagine what flying must have been like so very long ago.
Thankfully the next exhibit held their attention quite a long time. And gave me a chance to sneak back into the previous exhibits to indulge my own interests.
Flight Simulators at the Flying Boat Museum
Hands on exhibits are the way to keep kids interested, and the flight simulators at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum will keep kids entertained for quite a while.
Whether sitting ‘in the cockpit' of the B314, or trying out the ‘Myths of Flight' simulators, my girls were fascinated with the act of flying planes. And, not surprisingly, they were much better at it than I.
Step Aboard a Flying Boat in Foynes
Sadly, no Boeing 314 Flying Boats survive, the majority having been destroyed or scrapped.
At the Foynes Flying Boat Museum you can step into the only full size Boeing 314 replica in the world. Though smaller than the jet you arrived on, the 314 feels larger, more spacious, and, despite the flimsy looking chairs and thin cushions, much more comfortable to ride in.
Take your time here.
Climb to the cockpit and see the controls.
Explore the navigation and radio room.
Sit in the chairs.
Peer into the wee kitchen where a chef created 7 course meals which were served on linen covered tables.
Maybe even try out that bottom bunk bed.
And try not to compare your recent flight to what a flight on the Yankee Clipper must have been like.
Warm Up With an Irish Coffee
Exiting the plane and entering the museum through a different door, you come to B. O'Regan, the Irish Coffee hologram.
Open the door an pull up a seat to experience a recreation of the first Irish Coffee ever served. It's a charming hologram video and sure to have you read for a hot drink yourself.
Now the official welcome drink of Ireland, the O'Regan Restaurant at Foynes still serves the best Irish Coffee to be found, so be sure to have a cup before you leave. (Or order a tasty hot chocolate for the kids.)
The Maritime Museum and The Maureen O'Hara Exhibit
After your coffee (or maybe before), don't bypass the door to the Maritime Museum upstairs. This small, but very well done museum, offers a glimpse into the maritime history of the River Shannon.
From this exhibit you are led to the Maureen O'Hara Tribute. As patron to the museum, as well as wife to dashing Brigadier General and Flying Boat pilot Charles F. Blair, it is fitting the museum honors her.
In these 2 small rooms (a new wing is being built to house the incredible collection of her memorabilia) visitors are treated to snippets of her films, narrated with thoughts and memories of the Irish actress, as well as a few of her costumes, her Oscar, and personal items.
Before heading back downstairs take the elevator to the very top of the building for a bit of Foynes history in the ‘crows nest'. Step onto the walkway and get a birds eye view of Foynes.
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