Stepping back in time at Foynes Flying Boat Museum

posted in: Ireland | 15

Whilst driving along the Wild Atlantic Way in County Limerick, we drove through a small village called Foynes, about forty minute drive from Limerick.  It was here we discovered the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum (it’s full title). I looked at the sign and thought I was here to see flying boat’s and thought when did we have flying boat’s on our planet? Then I read the sign outside the building again and I still didn’t get it. My head was going into overdrive. The history of this part of the world was, well, non-existent but it all became clear inside.

Outside the Foynes Flying Boat Museum , Ireland
Outside the Foynes Flying Boat Museum
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Outside the Foynes Flying Boat Museum
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Outside the Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Inside the main entrance we were introduced to the museum by a member of staff who clearly knows the history not just on the museum but on the local area and her enthusiasm amazed me. We were warmly welcomed and then she explained to me everything I needed to know after I asked her the question ‘when did we have flying boats?’.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Inside the main entrance and loving the model aircraft hanging down from the ceiling.

Well, the flying boats came about before the Second World War in the early 1930s when an idea to fly passengers from Europe to New York . Foynes became the main base as it was an ideal location to land the flying boats on the River Shannon (at it’s widest point before entering the Atlantic Ocean) and there was no mountains in the surrounding area. It may have taken time to get across the ocean back then but the Flying Boats were the first ever transatlantic passenger flights. A variety of passengers came through Foynes to get to/from America which included film stars and very rich men dressed up in their Sunday best suits.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
The 1940’s style cinema room

In the next room we had a long video presentation to watch (I think it was over ten minutes but as I am into aviation, it felt like the video lasted two minutes), which explained the history of the flying boats in detail and showed footage of the flights. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Before aviation really took off, there were planes taking off from the river and up in the air in seconds. The flying boat used was the B314 (and I will explain the interior shortly) but these days, there are none in the world. The video was presented in a room with 1940’s decor to make visitors feel like they have step back in time.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Equipment used to assist the flights

The next room was the museum. There was room which had all the navigation equipment used when flights were landing to and from in Foynes. There was no weather forecasting equipment here (or the rest of Ireland) and that was done by the British on the island next door (United Kingdom mainland).

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Navigation maps used during the flights
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
More communication equipment used to assist the flights.

Through the next door and we were looking at displays which contained the uniform the staff used on flights to a can of food which hasn’t been opened to this very day. This museum was really fascinating and really caught my eye. I was looking at the early days of long haul flights and it started in this little village in Ireland. What amazed me even more the museum building we were standing in was the old flight terminal for these flights. It felt like every minute or two, a new fact would hit me and I was gobsmacked. Why haven’t I heard of Foynes before? I should know this place if I love aviation but my history of this era was not very good.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Museum displaying items from the flights
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Looking at the items here was really interesting, taken us back to a different era.
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
An photo of the what the dinner time was like during the flight.

Now the bit what blew my mind and nearly sent me to the local hospital with a heart attack. Through a door we were taken outside and right in front of us, a B314 (Boeing) Clipper Flying Boat. Then I was told it was a replica but was built exactly the same size and scale as the originals.. Well, it was still mind-blowing. Walking inside was like walking back in time. The seating area for passengers and where they dined during the flights. There was a honeymoon suite at the back and very basic toilet facilities on show. I was amazed how the stewardess cooked the seven course meal because the kitchen facilities area is very small.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
The outside of the replica of the B314
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Entrance to the B314
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Seating area
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Seating area
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
One of the sleeping beds on the aircraft
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Looks basic but this was first class back in the day.

Upstairs there was the navigating room plus the cockpit. I was amazed how small the cockpit was and how much leg room there is. It was all very basic compared to today’s modern cockpits and only a few dials to look at.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Navigation equipment onboard the aircraft
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Testing out the steering in the cockpit

Back outside the aircraft and that was the end of our experience with the Flying Boats. Or was it? We were directed into another room which joins onto the gift shop and was called the Irish Coffee Centre. Nothing special there as Irish Coffee is sold across this green emerald island but our guide explained inside that this was the place where Irish Coffee was first invented. Yes, the world famous drink was first made here.

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Claire getting ready to make Irish Coffee

In the early 1940’s, a restaurant and coffee shop opened in the terminal building.  During the winter of 1943, late one night, a flight left the area for New York. Several hours in the air getting battered by the bad weather conditions, the captain decided to turn around and landed back at Foynes. A message via morse code was sent to the terminal building telling them that the aircraft was coming back. Because of this, the staff who worked at the terminal were all called back and the passengers of the plane came into the restaurant for food and drink (and probably to recover from the storm, that must have been one shaky flight!).

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
The guide showing the tour guide how to make Irish Coffee

The chef (Joe Sheridan) of the restaurant was asked to prepare something to warm up the passengers. So he decided to put some Irish whiskey in the coffee and that is how Irish Coffee came about. This is still served right here and Claire was lucky enough to make an Irish coffee (and drink it) to which I refused (as I am not a great fan of whiskey and I was driving as well).

Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
The end product… Irish Coffee
Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Ireland
Claire very happy with her Irish Coffee making, she even got a medal at the end.

Our experience here was amazing and I came here knowing nothing but came away with a great insight on the early days of transatlantic flying. This has to be one of very few museums I came away with sense of great pride and positive feeling as usually I am not a big fan of museums. I looked at all the displays, read everything, listened to what our guide said to which she made our visit an enjoyable one. I highly recommend a stop here, even if visitors are not huge aviation fans.



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15 Responses

  1. Sounds like a fun and informative day! I had no idea that is how Irish whiskey came about.

  2. I am loving this trip down into history! And flying boats?? So cool!

  3. Love the idea of Flying Boats, and the glamour of the old Pan Am Clippers. Sadly, we ran out of time in the Limerick area and didn’t make it to Foynes. I guess that’s a reason to go back! (As if we needed one. 😉
    Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) recently posted…Celebrating Global Cultures at the Plano International Festival

  4. Generally, I am not a museum fan but I would like to visit it. This sounds soo interesting!! Thank for sharing

  5. Wow, I’d never heard of this before! Really need to explore Ireland so following your blogs with interest! Found on Under 1000 Club on Facebook

  6. Wow, I didn’t know there were still some of these planes left and what interesting seating and sleeping arrangements that you were able to do back then. Really cool to see.

  7. What an incredible experience. I love the early glam of flying – seven-course meals?! Irish coffee?! I’d love to stop by the Foynes.

  8. I had no idea that the entire history of longhaul flights started in Ireland – and in a tiny town in Ireland, no less! This looks like the kind of museum my dad and my granddad would go crazy over – my granddad would have taken any excuse to get in or learn about a plane, and my dad has definitely inherited that! I personally find it interesting that they made the accommodations look so much like trains on the inside. Thanks for sharing!
    Meagan recently posted…Big Beehive: A big little hike near Lake Louise

  9. That is amazing!! It’s like a proper dining room in the plane! I must visit here. I’m just over the pond so shouldn’t be too far away

  10. Wow! This is cool! Look at those phones! Maybe they existed and we haven’t been even born yet! Kidding! It must have been a cool tour. Thanks for sharing your cool experience.

  11. I am with you with on not enjoying Museums but this one is really interesting. Love the old vintage dials, and systems and especially the B314 – what a cool step back in time. The tour inside combined with the pictures definitely brings the feeling of what it was like back to life. Never hurts to have an Irish coffee at the end. thanks for sharing.

  12. Loved that you could experience the replica of a flying boat. Although it did get me a bit depressed about the really small space that we are cooped up in, for long haul flight today 🙁
    What an interesting museum, although I am not a huge aviation fan, would like to visit this. Thanks for the informative post.

  13. I’m a huge history fan, so this looks like an amazing trip back in time! I had no idea these were called flying boats, but it makes perfect sense. Being able to tour a replica is astonishing too! I would have loved to have toured!

  14. Had no clue that “flying boats” were a thing! I love that they had sleeping beds inside. I think current airlines should should incorporate this idea! Would love to be able to sleep comfortably on a transatlantic flight.
    Kiyoko recently posted…Gifts for Travelers

  15. Thank you for the history lesson! I learned something new – I never have previously heard of flying boats before! And how cool was it the birth place of Irish coffee? This sounds like an awesome day trip in the area!

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