Family Fun at Fleet Air Arm Museum
Last weekend we enjoyed a trip to the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset. The Fleet Air Arm Museum is the largest Naval aviation museum in Europe and is located at RNAS Yeovilton. The girls have always been fascinated by planes and helicopters flying above them in the sky, so they were really excited about getting up close to some.
The museum is divided up into four main areas. The first hall has a display about the development of naval aviation. I was fascinated by the fabric-covered wooden biplanes. The replica of the 1911 Short S27 was little more than a chair with wings and a propeller.
This hall also had a few Westland helicopters. We were actually able to go inside a naval helicopter, and the girls enjoyed pretending that they were flying it.
Hall 2 is mostly devoted to the Second World War, particularly the Battle of the Atlantic. Upstairs there is also a display about the role of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. It was interesting to see some of the jobs carried out by the Wrens, but the girls were very wary of the dressed mannequins so we didn’t get much of a chance to explore this exhibition.
Hall 3 is a bit different from the others. The whole hall has been converted into a mock-up of the flight deck of the fleet carrier HMS Ark Royal. You reach the hall by taking a simulated helicopter ride from Hall 2. Once inside there are several aircraft, and audio visuals describe the roles of various departments involved in takeoff and landing of aircraft. There are also a series of rooms which simulate the aircraft carrier’s island.
Unfortunately the special effects simulating the helicopter flight, the darkness in here and inside the hall and the sudden noises scared the girls (which doesn’t take much to be fair) so we didn’t spend as much time here as Rich and I would have liked to have done. I would definitely like to come back and see this hall again properly when the girls are a bit older.
Hall 4 looks at the theory of flight and advances in design and technology. The star of this hall has to be the first British built Concorde (Concorde 002). After its 439 flights, in 1976 it was flown to the Fleet Air Arm Museum and has been on display since July of that year. Here you can actually go aboard this legendary aircraft. The girls were too young to appreciate the significance of the Concorde, but for Rich and I it was a real treat to be able to both stand on board this plane and admire its iconic form. This year is a special year for this Concorde as it is celebrating its 40th anniversary at the museum.
I have already mentioned that there were a few parts of the museum that the girls weren’t particularly keen on, but there were plenty of features that they absolutely loved. We spent quite a bit of time in one section of Hall 4 where they were able to dress up in a variety of costumes worn by different departments of the RNAS. Not only were there the different coloured bibs, but also props to go with them. Emily really looked the part of a mechanic in her brown bib, holding a wooden spanner, but I think she liked the model rockets best!
There was plenty of other activities around the museum to keep them amused when they weren’t being fascinated by the aircraft themselves. Being able to climb inside a life raft was one of the things they really enjoyed. I think they thought it was like having a den to play in. There were also various drawing areas dotted around with crayons and pictures of planes to colour in. These gave us an opportunity to read some of the display boards close by whilst the girls enjoyed some colouring in. There were a few hands-on displays where you could “fly planes”. Emily didn’t really understand what to do, but absolutely loved having a go. Obviously she got plenty of help from Rich, who really wanted to be having a go at this without the “help” from the girls.
We decided to take a picnic with us, and despite a gloomy day, the rain held off so we sat outside at one of the picnic benches. Rich and I had a hot drink from the Swordfish Restaurant (which looked like it had a nice variety of both hot and cold food available had we chosen to eat there) whilst the girls enjoyed the play area. This was mainly a mini assault course which the girls really loved having a go at. They both wanted a helping hand to start off with, but soon they knew what they were doing and wanted to do it by themselves.
We had a really nice day out, and I would definitely like to visit the museum again. Obviously the Fleet Air Arm Museum would be perfect for any children with an interest in planes, but even if you don’t have an aircraft fanatic, getting up close, and being able to go aboard some of these amazing planes and helicopters can’t fail to fascinate most. All-in-all, it’s a really fun family day out, with something to interest everybody.
If you fancy a visit to the Fleet Air Arm Museum, it is open every day now until 30th October from 10am to 5:30pm, and then reverts to its Winter opening times of 10am to 4:30pm Wednesday to Sunday only until the end of March. The admission prices are £14 for adults and £10.50 for children, with children under 5 going free. There are also family tickets available and 20% off ticket prices if you book online. You can find out more here. You can also find out more about the museum and events taking place there throughout the year on their website.
Disclaimer: We were given family entry to the museum in exchange for an honest review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.