We arrived at the Fleet Air Arm Museum before the doors even opened, that was how excited my son and husband were about our visit. Before we arrived I had no idea of the size of the site and the museum itself – it’s massive! But then I guess it would be, as it is home to the largest collection of naval aviation in Europe.
My three-year-old son was so excited he could hardly take it all in. I think the size of the planes surprised him at first, having seen only pictures in books. He was so happy that he was able to climb in, look around and sit in the navigator’s seat of a Sea King rescue helicopter.
There were interactive screens and hands on demonstrations at various points through out the exhibition halls that older kids, and indeed adults, were able to enjoy too. One particular demonstration explained the physics of flying a plane, which was really interesting for me.
The highlight of the day for us was the simulated ride on a helicopter which ‘flew’ you to a complete replica of an aircraft carrier where you could get a real taster of what it would be like to live and work on board – do note that this part of the simulation is quite noisy, but there is an option to skip this part.
The last of the four exhibition halls housed a Concorde; you are able to walk through the whole plane, which a great experience.
Throughout the museum there are plenty of places to stop and rest, and at regular intervals there are small tables with colouring activities for children. There is also a fun activity where children are able to dress up – my son particularly enjoyed being a Flight Deck Director, wearing a high viz jacket and ear defenders!
As a family with a three-year-old we were pleased to see that there were toilets and baby changing facilities at regular intervals and clearly signposted throughout the museum. There is also a shop at the end of the tour selling model aircraft, sweets, chocolate and pocket money toys.
We ended our time at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at the Swordfish restaurant, which serves a range of food from sandwiches to hot meals, coffee, tea and cake. There is also a decent play area outside with a helter-skelter, which my son thoroughly enjoyed.
My husband and I would have loved to have stayed longer; we were really impressed with the huge range of planes and helicopters on display. There was so much information about the history of the Naval Air Fleet, and the women who manufactured the parts of the planes during both world wars along with classic Battle of Britain planes.
We will certainly take our son back to the Fleet Air Arm Museum when he is a little older and able to read some of the descriptions of the aircraft, appreciate the interactive screens and have a go on the flight simulator.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is a great day out, whether you are interested in aeroplanes or not – you can’t help but get caught up in the feeling of the place, the pride and passion of the volunteers who work there and the history they are trying to preserve. It has something for everyone!
Practical details for the Fleet Air Arm Museum
Review and photos by writer and mum Amy Trevaskus