A small town in the west of Ireland boasts a unique museum that should be on the radar of every aviation enthusiast.
Foynes in County Limerick has the world’s only flying boat museum which celebrates the part that Ireland played during the 1930s and ‘40s when it was central to transatlantic seaplane flights.
The Foynes Flying Boat Museum is housed within the original terminal building of Foynes Airport which operated from 1939–1945.
The airport’s amazing story is told through a range of exhibits and graphic illustrations and the museum incorporates an authentic 1940s cinema, the radio and weather rooms—complete with transmitters, receivers and Morse code equipment – and the only full sized replica Boeing 314 flying boat in the world.
The Boeing 314 was a long-range flying boat built for Pan American airlines and renowned as the pinnacle of luxury flying. Nicknamed the ‘Yankee Clipper,' it was the largest aircraft of its time, but of the 12 that were built, none remain intact.
The replica plane at Foynes allows visitors to see the high standard of service offered to passengers on the Boeing 314 flights, which were used mainly by the rich and famous.
Seven-course meals were served in a 14-seater dining room with linen tablecloths, crystal glasses and a full waiter service.
Each passenger had a bed to sleep in during the long flight and would find their shoes cleaned and polished by the stewards overnight.
Visitors can try their hand at flying a flying boat simulator and a ‘living’ hologram at the museum also tells the story of how Foynes became the birthplace of the now famous, Irish coffee.
The story goes that one night in the winter of 1943 a flight departed Foynes for Newfoundland.
After flying for several hours in bad weather conditions, the captain made the decision to return to Foynes and the passengers were brought to the airport restaurant.
On being asked to prepare something to warm the passengers, the chef decided to put some Irish whiskey into the coffees.
A passenger asked the chef if he was serving Brazilian coffee. He replied no, he was serving Irish coffee.
It was so well received it went on to become a much loved beverage around the world and remains so to this day.
Irish coffee continued to be served at Foynes to all passengers until it closed in 1945.
The museum’s fascinating records include the names of the rich and famous who passed through the terminal on their journeys between America and Europe.
They included world leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, King George of Greece and Olaf Crown Prince of Norway, as well as actors and entertainers Douglas Fairbanks, Bob Hope, Merle Oberon, Gracie Fields, Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart and the writer Ernest Hemingway.