Sunderland Air Museum

Sunderland Air Museum

We visited the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum today. We happened to be over Washington way, and considered the Wetland Centre and Washington Old Hall, but settled on the Air Museum as James is fairly transport mad.

The museum is well hidden and you have to know to take the Nissan turn-off on the A19 before you see the first brown sign (or use sat nav, of course!) .

James loved seeing the windmills so close by, too.

The car park is very muddy at the moment, so, if like me you are using your other half’s car, be prepared for moans about the dirt getting in the car!

Entrance to the museum is £5.00 for adults, and free for under-5s. You go through a little portacabin where there’s a wee shop and cafe, and out into the yard.

old blue bus at sunderland air museum days out with a toddler in north east england

We headed for the main hangar right away, but there are others with a load of planes and vehicles in. For reasons I will explain later, we did not explore the whole museum today.

As you go through the door, you go into a room with a plane engine in. I explained what it was to James, and he nodded sagely.

plane engine atsunderland air museum days out with a toddler in north east england

There is also an extremely interesting display of memorabilia from the 1940s. There are a few gas masks, including one for a baby, and an explanation of food rationing.
However, there are also a lot of mannequins, either showing the uniforms, or demonstrating normal life in the 1940s. There’s a door you can open to see a man on the toilet. All these mannequins were really scary to James. He went from feeling really excited to feeling nervous.

I had to carry him past displays I knew he’d normally be keen on to the large open area where most of the planes and helicopters are on display.

There is a cockpit you can sit in to fly the plane. They have the nose separated and a seating area laid out. I think, in all honesty, that they could’ve done this a bit better. There is only one very tatty plane-style seat, the other 3 are black stacking chairs like we had in school. The buttons in the cockpit are printed on a sheet of mdf or cardboard. The handles are broken. Of course James thought it was brilliant and found it difficult to leave to let other visitors take a turn.

pretend cockpit north east air museum in sunderland

cockpit play in plane nose at sunderland air museum

This helicopter is only 20p a ride! Did I have a 20p coin? Of course not. James was happy to sit in it for a little while.

helicopter ride at sunderland air museum days out with a toddler north east england

There are so many planes here. James didn’t want to look at them, though, which is so unlike him.

sabre knight  plane at sunderland air museum

There was a Concorde nose made to look like it had crashed through the wall. Oh my goodness, did James not like that! It really worried him. He said this plane (below) had a hole in it. No, he didn’t want to look in the hole…

plane at sunderland air museum days out with a toddler north east england

He absolutely loved these little model planes. He spent a long time admiring them in various cabinets, before he remembered the Concorde and asked to leave.


So, my transport-mad boy didn’t enjoy it today. I’m not sure that it was totally down to the mannequins, but they certainly contributed to his change in mood. I think we’ll be back, because he’ll know what to expect next time.



  1. January 18, 2015 / 8:33 pm

    This looks like a good place to let my three go exploring! Sorry it wasn’t a great success

    • January 19, 2015 / 9:48 pm

      It is totally different than the last time I went seven years ago!

  2. Nicola Burt-Skinner
    January 20, 2015 / 7:50 am

    Such a shame your little one didn’t enjoy it. I felt the same about Eden Camp, it’s a little overbearing with the huts and mannequins and so after hubby and I visited, we never actually went back with our daughter as we thought she wouldn’t like it. That being said I don’t think Sunderland Air Museum would be our cup of tea – I hope you do go back with your son and he enjoys it a bit more the next time round, knowing what to expect.

    • January 21, 2015 / 2:19 pm

      It’s so difficult to guess about that sort of thing, isn’t it?!

  3. February 3, 2015 / 2:03 pm

    Oh dear – hopefully your LO will enjoy this when he’s a little older. Thanks for linking #LoveNorthEast

    • February 4, 2015 / 8:58 pm

      Yes, I hope so. I was certain he’d love it, he’s such a transport fan!

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