Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Posted by admin | August 6, 2007 1

Radio Room
Boeing B314 flying boat replica

If you are heading to Adare in C. Limerick it is worth taking in a trip to Foynes on the Shannon Estuary to the Flying Boat Museum which is housed in the restored terminal building of the Trans Atlantic Flying Boat service which connected this sleepy port town to Botwood in Newfoundland and during the war years to Lisbon, Azores, Bermuda and New York. Foynes, Ireland, became the center of the aviation world from 1939 to 1945. On July 9th 1939, Pan Am’s luxury Flying Boat, the “Yankee Clipper” landed at Foynes.

Foynes Control Tower

Dining on the Yankee Clipper

During this period, many famous politicians, international businessmen, film stars, active-service-men and wartime refugees passed through Foynes. The site was initially surveyed in 1933 by Colonel Charles Lindbergh and his wife Ann, who landed in Galway Bay flying his Lockheed Sirius. On 21 November 1935 a survey party set out for the West of Ireland and surveyed sites as far north as Athlone and south to Askeaton. Among the sites for a seaplane base which were considered were: the Shannon just below Limerick, Lough Derg, Lough Corrib, Tralee Bay, Kenmare Bay, Lough Ree and Valentia. But it was Foynes, near the mouth of the Fergus River which was finally selected. Its good sheltered anchorage and its proximity to long open stretches of water convinced the surveyors Foynes was the best choice.

The era of the flying boats was colorful but brief. In 1945, hundreds of people watched as Captain Blair piloted the last American Export flying boat out of Foynes to New York. Upon arrival, he turned around and piloted the first landplane, a DC-4, back to open the new airport at Rineanna, later to become Shannon International Airport.   

This museum is a good quality and well run visitor attraction with the helpful and friendly staff wearing steward / stewardess uniforms and with a well run cafe serving beverages and snacks surrounded by flying boat memorabilia.

The high point for me was world’s only full size Boeing B314 flying boat replica. The originals were all scrapped in 1952 but this faithful replica catches the atmosphere with 7 compartments,(including a honeymoon suite in the tail!) a kitchen and “upstairs” the cockpit and luggage hold. The fact that such large machines flew with the technology of the day is impressive, particularly when you see the rudimentary controls and navigation aids.

Boeing B314 Cockpit

Located at the west end of Foynes, the Flying Boat Museum is housed in the original old terminal building and showcases the Radio and Weather Room, complete with transmitters, receivers and Morse code equipment. The exhibits feature an introduction to the first transatlantic passenger service and Foynes during the war years.

Berths in Flying Boat Compartments

In 1942, Brendan O’Regan opened a restuarant and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal building and employed a Chef named Joe Sheridan. It was not long before Joe realised that the passengers coming to wait in the terminal in cold and rainy weather needed something to make the coffee a bit stronger. Thus, Irish Coffee was born.

The abandoned line to Foynes and the station at
Adare Co. Limerick

Other than the museum Foynes is a quiet and unassuming spot. It has a fine railway station and a now disused line from Limerick terminating in a large stone railway station. To me this would make an excellent visitor attraction if a preserved railway could be run from Limerick with the Flying Boat museum acting as a visitor venue at the line’s end. With Glin Castle not far away this area is crying out for some imaginative tourist development to provide a “pit stop” on the journey from Limerick to Kerry.

See also;

The story of Irish Coffee

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