When Marty & Tiki told us about a building, in a small Irish village, with an airplane tail sticking out of it, we just had to check it out.
In 1913, the London Newspaper, The Daily Mail, sponsored a competition for the first pilot to make a continuous flight across the Atlantic. With a prize of £10,000, it got a lot of attention but was soon suspended at the outbreak of WWI.
However, the airplanes usefulness was proven during the war. The competition continued and the summer of 1919 would see several daring transatlantic attempts.
In May 1919, a Curtiss Seaplane was flown from the US to Newfound. Then on to the Azores, Portugal, and finally arriving in the UK, 31 May. This huge undertaking used 53 ships, spaced at set intervals across the ocean to act as navigational beacons.
Because it took 23 days and several crews, the journey was ineligible for the grand prize, but it showed the crossing, by air, could be accomplished. Then, in June 1919, two British pilots John Alcock & Arthur Brown flew the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight.
Although the prize was claimed and awards given the competition was far from over. Companies scrambled to see who could move mail and people across the ocean first.
Introduced in 1939, Boeing would produce several huge airboats, or Clippers, capable of carrying up to 74 passengers & 11 crew. With spacious seats, passenger sleeping quarters, seven course meals, and even a honeymoon suite in under the tail, this was 5-Star luxury.
The Pan American Airlines were formed flying this Boeing 314, said to be the largest passenger aircraft until the Jumbo Jet arrived almost 30 years later. It was over a hundred feet long and it could fly at almost 170 knots.
Back then, if you had $675, about the price of a Chevrolet, and wanted to make a Transatlantic journey, to or from Great Britain, you passed through the tiny village of Foynes. Passengers, anxious to fly across the Atlantic would ride small shuttle boats out to a waiting seaplane, tied to their moorings.
Today, sitting along the banks of Ireland's Shannon River is the Foynes Flying Boat Museum
. Officially opened by the Dublin born actress, Maureen O'Hara, in 1989. The museum is housed in the original terminal building for the Boeing Clippers, its strategic location was hand picked by Charles Limburg, himself.
The award winning actress of the 1940's & 50's had a special tie to the museum and frequently visited until her death in 2015. She also donated several items now displayed in the museum, that belonged to her late husband, US Air Force Brigadier General Charles F. Blair. Among his many accomplishments, Blair was the chief training pilot for the Pan American's Boeing Clippers.
None of the original Clippers survive but with the only life sized replica of a Boeing 314 as its centerpiece, the Foynes Flying Boat Museum keeps the romantic age of Pan American Airlines, and it's Clippers, alive.
Fair Winds & Quiet Anchorages,
Jeff and Wendy