During our flight excursion to Norway we had to stop for a couple of days in Bodø and this gave us the opportunity to visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum (Norsk luftfartsmuseum) built on the site of the airport built by the Germans during World War II.
The museum is divided mainly in two sections, military and civil aviation, which are separated by a hall which leads to a control tower that enjoys a good view over the airport of the city. We spent over 2 hours visiting the museum (entry price was 175 NOK, around 17 euros) and found it quite interesting.
The exhibition is organized chronologically, starting with the use of balloons to gather intelligence over the enemy lines in battles, the first pioneers in aviation and military aviation in between the world wars, the aircraft acquired for the armed forces in Norway at the time, the first military aerodrome in Norway (Kjeller) which was also the site where military aircraft would be produced under license, exhibits about operations during the second world war (such as the first paradropping operation over Stavanger Sola), the training of the Norwegian armed forces in Canada in a camp called “Little Norway“, and then ending with more modern aircraft.
Some of the relevant aircraft they have in display are: Avro 504K DYAK (used during WWI), Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (amphibian aircraft mainly used for reconnaissance patrol of German U-boats), De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth (which was one of the aircraft licensed to be built at Kjeller between the wars and then was stationed at military bases in Kjeller, Værnes and Bardufoss), De Havilland DH 98 Mosquito (these were imported from Britain and several were lost during WWII missions mainly armed reconnaissance along the Norwegian coast and attacks on German U-boats), Supermarine Spitfire (the most important British fighter during WWII equipped as well two Norwegian squadrons which operated over 500 Spitfires between 1942 and 1945), etc.
The civil aviation exhibition as well is organized chronologically, starting with the early pioneers who acquired some of the early models and studied aeronautical engineering in France, followed by the early development of aviation in Norway with emphasis on the role played by the former Norwegian Air Lines (DNL), Widerøe (regional airline connecting every corner of Norway and based in Bodø), Braathens and SAS.
The exhibition showcases as well some of the contributions of Norway to international aviation such as the development of navigational aids that enabled commercial traffic over polar regions (gyro compass, grid north and sky compass – read this interesting article on flying polar routes) thanks to the works of the navigator Einar Sverre Pedersen. The first polar route was operated by SAS in 1952 with a DC-6B, and then commercially from 1954 with Copenhagen to Los Angeles as the first route.
Another Norwegian breakthrough in commercial aviation consisted on Turi Widerøe (daughter of one of the founders of Widerøe airline) becoming the first female pilot in a major airline in the Western world in 1967, when she received her license; then she first operated seaplanes for Widerøe and later moved to SAS to fly Caravelles and DC-9s until her retirement in 1978.