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Aviodrome Lelystad, an aviation museum

For a fearful flyer like me, airplanes hold a certain fascination. It can seem an absolute miracle that something so big and heavy can actually get off the ground.

And then, of course, there are flying enthusiasts. Those fortunate people actually enjoy their time aloft, taking pictures out the window or just dropping off to sleep the moment they sit down. I envy them.

Photo of just head and shoulders of each of it. Sitting quite close together in a small airplane, each wearing headphones. Kerwin wears a bright green safety vest. His skin is quite dark brown, he wears glasses and a very big smile at the camera. I am a bit further away, wearing a bright orange safety vest. My skin is pinkish and rather clammy-looking. I am looking at the camera, with my glasses up on my head. I'm smiling too, but rather fakely.
This is the best picture I can find to illustrate the two types of flyers. I flew in a tiny airplane with my blogger friends Kerwin of passrider.com and Tomiko Harvey of passportsandgrub.com. For this picture, I may have been smiling on the outside, but I was screaming in terror on the inside. Kerwin, on the other hand, is absolutely joyous when he’s flying. You can read about that flight here.

Either type – fearful flyer or aviation fan – will love a visit to the Aviodrome aviation theme park, a museum of flight at Lelystad Airport in the Netherlands.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one and spend money, I will receive a small commission on what you spend. It will not raise your price.

An airplane collection in a hangar

The central focus of Aviodrome Lelystad is its collection of over 100 vintage airplanes, from a replica of a Wright flyer to a retired Boeing 747, and everything in between.

The building is metal sided, with a roof that slants up from left to right and then has another section visible behind. A large letter A logo with three stripes on either side of it is painted in white on blue above the entrance, next to "Luchtvaart Museum Aviodrome." A propeller plane is parked in front of the building.
The entrance to Aviodrome Aviation Theme Park in Lelystad

Arranged more or less chronologically, the indoor exhibition – housed in a large hangar at Lelystad Airport – follows a wandering path around and sometimes under some beautifully restored pieces.

World War I planes that appear to be built of nothing but canvas and wire hang from the ceiling. Seeing these, I felt awe at the bravery of anyone who flew in them.

A bi-wing plane, seen from below (It hangs from a corrugated metal ceiling. It has one propeller in front and the wings are painted yellow with a bright round spot at the end of both top and bottom wings: black in the center, then a ring of white, then a ring of red. The body is brown, and the wheels just behind the propeller have white stars painted on them.
The Nieuport 11 was a French warplane used in WWI. To get around the problem of shooting through the propellers, the gun was mounted on the upper wing.

Later planes follow the development of the technology, particularly focusing on Dutch aviation. Fokker planes from all periods are part of the Aviodrome collection, from an original Fokker Spin (1910) to a Fokker 100 from the 1980s.

The body of the plane is boxy and mostly blue, with one propeller on the front and the letters HNABC painted on the side. The wing (only one is visible in the photo) is yellow, with the letters HN painted on the underside. Three small windows in the body are where the passengers sat.
A Fokker F2. It was used for KLM passenger flights between Schiphol and Croydon in England starting in 1920. The passengers sat in a closed, unheated and unpressurized cabin while the pilot sat in front in the open air (as if he was a carriage driver).

KLM is well-represented as a company, with its Douglas, Boeing, and Lockheed aircraft of various sorts, several of them labeled as “The Flying Dutchman.” One of the earliest KLM passenger planes illustrates how primitive these contraptions were: they had no pressurization and passengers had to use a box with a seat as a toilet.

Visitors can board a more familiar kind of plane, a Douglas DC-3. While the passenger section isn’t that different from passenger planes today – but with larger, more comfortable seats and more leg room – the cockpit still looks very improvisational. The navigator could even use a low-tech option of peering through a skylight to orient himself by the stars.

A more modern-looking airplane slants up to the left. It is painted white with a blue stripe along the length of it, in which the words "THE FLYING DUTCHMEN" are painted in white. The windows are rectangular. The door is open and a short flight of stairs leads up to it.
A Douglas DC-3. These were first produced in 1935 and used by KLM from the late 1930s. The Dutch military used a reinforced version of the same thing, called the “Dakota,” after WWII.

Each airplane has a sign in Dutch with its history and its specs, for the real aviation geeks. The main points are summarized in English as well.

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More than airplanes at Aviodrome Lelystad

Here and there among the airplanes stand a variety of other displays, often interactive. You can steer a model plane in a wind tunnel to learn how a plane banks. You can experience the technological problem of attaching a machine gun to a plane in World War I (It would hit the propeller in front!) and how that problem was solved through synchronizing the gun with the rotation of the propeller. Visitors can take the pilot’s seat in a flight simulator and videos illustrate historical moments in aviation as well.

Only a bit of her head is visible on the left side of the picture, seen from behind. She holds a joy stick. Beyond her a toy plane hangs in a chamber, leaning quite steeply to the left.
My daughter steering a plane inside a wind tunnel.

The collection includes several vintage cars, and also quite a lot of collectibles related to flying, like uniforms and branded items from KLM and other Dutch companies. Commemorative plates mark noteworthy events in Dutch aviation history: for example, the speed record set in 1933 from Amsterdam to Batavia (now called Jakarta). With four crew members in a Fokker FXVIII full of Christmas mail, the flight lasted four days, four hours and 40 minutes, with brief stops for refueling.

A 50's-style car, painted red and white, with what looks like a street light shining in front of it.
A Ford Fairlane from 1956, I think.

A small upstairs section looks at space flight, mostly focusing on the contributions of the Dutch.

A charming 4-D film (3-D glasses plus other effects like wind and light rain) tells the story of two children and their fantasies about being hero pilots. While the dialogue is in Dutch, it doesn’t matter. It would nevertheless be fun for children, since it’s full of flying action and effects.

The main lobby of the Aviodrome, besides the reception desk, has a play space decorated on a baggage-handling theme for kids to climb around in. A café serves pretty standard fast food, and a shop offers various aviation-themed books and toys.

If you are planning to stay in Lelystad, here are some hotels to consider.

An outdoor collection

Outdoors are more airplanes. A Boeing 747, for example, looms next to the hangar. Exploring it was, for me, a bit of a trip down memory lane, but it is also interesting in that this was a “combo” version of the plane. That means that the back half was used for cargo while the front was used for passengers. Seeing that unfurnished section gives a much clearer idea of just how big the plane is.

The inside is stripped down to the insulation, which is visible between the struts of the rounded ceiling. The windows still have their plastic panels that we are familiar with from fying, but the panels end at about two meters above the floor. A few airplane chairs have been placed near one wall. The floor is flat but unfinished.
The back end of the Boeing 747 has been stripped of furnishings.

A small Russian military plane (an Antonov AN-2 Antek) is open so that you can sit in the pilot’s seat and pretend to be a fighter pilot. Flight-themed playground equipment keeps kids happy as well.

A number of other airplanes, parked outside, both military and civilian, can’t be boarded, but are nevertheless worth seeing. A Mikoyan-Gurevich MIG-21PFM, for example, used by the East German air force, looks fiercely aerodynamic. A few other vintage planes lend a certain nostalgia to the space outside.

A small grey airplane with a glass covered cockpit that looks like it probably only fit one person. The front of the plane is very pointy and the wings don't extend very far out to the side, they reach back more than out.
A Mikoyan-Gurevich MIG-21PFM

Vintage airport terminal

Further away from the main hangar, an elegant brick building drew my eye: the original terminal from Schiphol airport, dating from 1928, was taken apart and reassembled here. Inside, it offers a flash from a past when air travel was only for the elite. A chalkboard shows departing flights, including the names of the pilots.

A long, low, brick building, mostly just one story, though on the right-hand end it's two stories. The control tower is in about the center and is about four stories high. It's al very simple, with white-edge windows, and a small balcony around the top floor of the control tower. In front of the building, to the right, is an airplane.
The old Schiphol terminal building.

An elegant café allowed passengers to watch the planes take off and land. Airlines had simple offices behind their respective check-in counters. The control tower is simply a room just a few flights up. Outside, a Fokker Friendship stands, a type that would have been used in the terminal’s heyday. It all hearkens back to a simpler (and more dangerous) period of aviation.

T2 hangar

Another, more prosaic, building is a simple hangar, called T2. This is where the real business of Aviodrome Lelystad takes place: hobbyist volunteers restoring vintage planes. The space is strewn with airplanes in varying states of repair (and disrepair), ranging from ones that look airworthy to others that lie in scattered pieces on the floor. It smells of machinery and engine grease.

T2 Hangar at Aviodrome Lelystad is a much more brightly-lit room than in the rest of the pictures. A shiny grey metallic plane with two propellers. It has KLM and Uiver painted on the nose. It slants upward to the right, and has an assortment of tables underneath it. Its windows are square and have curtains neatly pinned back (other than the cockpit windows, which have no curtains.
This is a copy of a Douglas DC-2 that first flew in 1934 but crashed on its first flight to Dutch Indonesia that same year. The Aviodrome website says it is flight-ready, but when I visited, it was inside the T2 hangar.

Visitors cannot roam among these planes. Instead, a walkway a flight up above the work floor allows an overview, but with few explanatory signs you’d have to be an airplane afficionado to understand the renovations taking place. Basically, this is a workplace, and the volunteers tolerate but generally ignore visitors.

Negative points about Aviodrome Lelystad

In the end, it seemed to me that Aviodrome Lelystad’s hangar is actually too small for the sheer number of airplanes and other items on display. It means they are sometimes practically (or literally) on top of each other. They’ve done an excellent job, though, on making the best of it and using dramatic lighting effectively.

Another negative point is that the space exploration section is rather underwhelming compared to the rest. I can see why, and I don’t think they should expand it. There just isn’t room.

If you visit without children, come armed with a certain amount of tolerance. Aviodrome’s designation as an aviation theme park means it’s a lot of fun for kids, and kids having fun can make a lot of noise.

Pinnable image:
Text: Aviodrome Aviation Museum, Lelystad, the Netherlands, a review. (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo.
Images: 3 of the airplane pictures used in this article.
Pinterest image

Lelystad Airport

Lelystad Airport, owned by Schiphol Group, is a general aviation airport at the moment, handling private aircraft, flying lessons, and similar small-scale uses. It has a new terminal and an extended runway to accommodate larger aircraft like Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s. Negotiations have been going on for years over whether to let the airport open to commercial flights. When/if it does, it will be able to handle up to 45,000 flights a year.

A modern (ish) jet plane seen from directly in front: the nose mostly fills the picture, and only part of the wings are visible, extending out below the belly of the plane. The engines are visible as two circles. The plane is painted in KLM colors: blue above white.
The Fokker 100 was the largest plane Fokker ever produced, seating about 100 passengers.

Schiphol Airport has reached its legal limit of 500,000 flights per year and Schiphol Group upgraded Lelystad Airport to enable it to expand past that limit. Budget airlines like Transavia and Wizz Air have shown interest. So has Ryanair, but a complicated plan involving trading slots at Schiphol for slots at Lelystad would shut them out, so there’s been some legal wrangling.

Not surprisingly, all sorts of obstacles have prevented it from opening, besides the legal issues: concerns about noise standards and objections about the environmental consequences, including increased carbon emissions.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the opening has been delayed again: Lelystad Airport is now slated to open to vacation flights starting on November 1, 2021. I’m not holding my breath.

The plane is seen from straight from the side. The wing that is visible has two propeller engines sticking out in front. The body of the plane is grey with dark blue horizontal stripes. On the side it says KLM and a Dutch flag sticks out from the cockpit.
The Lockheed Constellation, commonly called the “Connie,” flew starting in about 1943. Its pressurized cabin increased safety because it could fly higher, above the clouds.

Visiting Aviodrome Lelystad

I bring up the whole controversy over Lelystad Airport because I assume that it will affect Aviodrome museum. Right now there’s plenty of parking and, while Aviodrome is certainly popular, it’s not overcrowded. I wonder how it will be affected by commercial flights operating from there.

On the other hand, if you are arriving or leaving from Lelystad Airport, this would be a great way to spend some time before or after a flight, with the added advantage of having a view on the runway from the control tower of the old Schiphol terminal.

If you visit with kids, expect to spend a lot of time here. They’ll enjoy the hands-on displays illustrating aspects of aviation, and they’ll completely exhaust themselves in the playground outside, which is not your everyday playground.

A very fragile-looking plain. Only the near wing is visible. It has a rod on the forward edge and ribs extending straight back from that. Canvas or some other material covers the ribbing. It has a single propeller on the front and a skeletal body. It resembles a dragonfly more than anything else.
Anthony Fokker’s first plane was a Fokker Spin, built in 1910. Spin means “spider” and it was called that because of all the little wires holding it together, looking like a spider’s web. To me it looks more like a dragonfly.

I will certainly update this article if/when the airport opens to commercial flights. In the meantime, here’s the practical information:

Aviodrome Aviation Theme Park, Lelystad: Pelikaanweg 50 at Lelystad Airport. The drive is about 45 minutes from Amsterdam: take the A1 toward Amersfoort/Almere, then take the A6 to Lelystad Harderwijk, exit at Lelystad N302 and take a left at the light. Then just follow the signs to the airport. Parking at P2. Or take the train to Lelystad or Harderwijk Stations. From either station you can take bus 148. Get off at Vliegveld/Eendenweg. Website.

Hours: Open daily from 10:00-17:00.

Admission: Adults €17.95, children 3-11 €14.95. You can get two euros off that price by booking in advance here.

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Pinnable image
Text: Lelystad, the Netherlands, Aviodrome Aviation Theme Park (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo. 
Images: the image of the old Schiphol terminal and the image of the East German warplane.

7 Comments

  • Jackie K Smith

    August 11, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    I am also a white-knuckler flier so I would probably find some horrors here confirming some irrational fear of mine but all the same it would be so interesting. Thanks for the tour. In light of our current pandemic, I can’t help but wonder what the future of aviation will be in the next few years anyway.

    Reply
    • Rachel Heller

      August 11, 2020 at 11:09 pm

      I think it’s because I’m a fearful flyer that I liked this museum. It’s reassuring to see these older planes and realize how far we’ve come. And yes, I wonder what the future of aviation is. It’ll continue, but it’ll be a different experience, and probably more expensive.

      Reply
  • Aviodrome

    August 19, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Wow what a well written article! We’re proud to read your kind words about our museum, thanks a lot for taking the time and for all the effort you put in, it really shows. Btw our Boeing 747 is a combo, not many of them where operating. So the back part of the plane never housed seats and we haven’t stripped a thing. This is how a cargo looked on our Queen of the skies. It was used a lot for moving horses around the world. Fun fact: the roof and its surroundings used to be silver in the first years of operation, but smoking was allowed back then on board so that made it turn to the colour it is now đŸ˜‰

    Thank you again for your article, I’ll send it to my collegues đŸ™‚

    Kind regards,
    Lars Janssen
    Coördinator exhibitions & public events

    Reply
    • Rachel Heller

      August 19, 2020 at 11:22 am

      I don’t know how I missed that the Boeing 747 is a combo! I think I flew in one back in 1984 when I went to Malawi. It was British Airways, I think, and stopped somewhere in West Africa first, then in Lusaka, then Lilongwe. I’ll change that part in the article.

      I remember when smoking was allowed. It used to annoy my mother because we always seemed to get seats in the non-smoking rows that bordered on the smoking rows, so we’d be breathing smoke the whole flight! Yuck.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment and, yes, sharing the article around is greatly appreciated!

      Reply

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