The Flying Boat Museum at Foynes near the mouth of the River Shannon in western Ireland highlights a short but significant period in the history of commercial and military aviation. Foynes was a new town and port of the nineteenth century, established from the late 1830s on a site recommended to government by the surveyors J F Burgoyne, Harry D Jones and Richard Griffiths. It was connected to the Irish railway system by a branch line opened in 1858 and currently mothballed. The channel between Foynes village and Foynes Island became a landing place for flying boats in the early 1930s, and was formally recognised as an air terminal in 1935. In the years immediately before the Second World War it was becoming clear that four-engined flying boats would be able to operate commercial services across the Atlantic, and on 23 June 1939 the first transatlantic passenger flight was made by a Boeing B313 Clipper from Botwood in Labrador (then part of Newfoundland which was incorporated into Canada in 1949). Other experimental flights were made by British Short S30 flying boats and by Americal Sikorsky 44s. During the Second World War Foynes became an important staging point for transatlantic passenger flights, which then took between 12 and 15 hours while Botwood developed into a huge base for the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1942 Shannon Airport on the north bank of the river was opened, and transatlantic flights, like those in other parts of the world, were increasingly undertaken by land planes, particularly the civilian versions of the four-engined bombers developed during the Second World War. The Foynes flying boat station was closed in 1948.
The terminal was originally the Monteagle Arms Hotel built in the 1860s, and surrounded during the Second World War by huts built for the personnel who operated the flying boat station. It was leased by the Flying Boat Museum in 1988. The outstanding feature of the museum is a full-size replica of a PanAm Boeing B315 Clipper, in which visitors can see the individual beds provided for travellers and sit in the 14-seat dining room, as well as inspecting the flight deck and the quarters occupied by the crew of eleven. They can also see the radio facilities and the weather room, as well as a small cinema reflecting the 1940s, and displays of newspaper clippings, postcards, aircraft logbooks and timetables, with photographs of celebrated passengers who passed through Foynes, including John Fitzgerald Kennedy, J M Keynes, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, Yehudi Menuhin. There is also a small display on the maritime history of the lower Shannon.