Southampton is one of the most important places in the history of aviation in the United Kingdom. In 1910 Eric Rowland Moon built one of the first British aircraft in the city’s medieval Wool House and flew it from fields that became Southampton Airport. The manufacturing of aircraft during the First World War at the end of which the city’s airport became a base for the United States forces. The Supermarine Aviation Works was based in the city during the First World War and was taken over in 1928 by Vickers Armstrong. The company chiefly produced seaplanes and developed aircraft that competed for the Schneider Trophy. R J Mitchell (1895-1937) worked for the company from 1917 and designed 24 aircraft between 1920 and 1926, including the Spitfire fighter, of which 22,000 were built, 800 of them at Southampton.
Southampton was the base until 1958 for flying boat services that linked the United Kingdom with distant parts of the British Empire, and during the Second World War nearby Calshot Spit was the base for the Royal Air Force’s ‘Sunderland’ flying boats. The museum’s outstanding exhibit is a ‘Sandringham’ S.25 flying boat, a conversion for civilian purposes of a military ‘Sunderland’.
The museum displays more than 20 aircraft, mostly rather smaller than the ‘Sandringham’ and also has displays illustrating the manufacture of aircraft in Southampton, the history of the Schneider Trophy, and a collection of aero engines.