The 75th anniversary of the first commercial transatlantic flight to Foynes will be commemorated with a spectacular air show in the village in July.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be among a large crowd which is expected in Foynes for the event which will be the highlight of festival taking place over the weekend of July 5/6. It celebrates the moment in 1939 when the Pan American Airways ‘Yankee Clipper’ flying-boat made history with the first commercial transatlantic crossing to Foynes.
Air travel was then the preserve of the elite and very wealthy, as illustrated by the $675 fare – estimated to be the equivalent of over $11,000 today - for a return ticket on the early flights into Foynes.
It took anything from 20 hours to reach Foynes from New York, via Newfoundland, at the time, with passengers in those early days of commercial aviation travel including members of the royal families, movie stars, military personnel and politicians. During the 1930s and 40s, Foynes hosted a plethora of well-known figures, among them Col Lindberg, John F Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Hope and Ernest Hemingway.
The celebrations were officially announced at Shannon Airport by its chairman Rose Hynes and Margaret O’Shaughnessy, director of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum to coincide with another key milestone for aviation on the estuary - the 75th anniversary of the first aircraft, the Irish Air Corps Aero Anson A43, landing at Rineanna, which is now Shannon Airport.
Ms O’Shaughnessy said that the anniversary weekend will be one to remember. “Foynes and Shannon Airport are the home of Irish aviation. The history we have is second to none here in Ireland and has few rivals internationally.
“It is only right then that we would put on a spectacular airshow to recognise and celebrate those who carved out that history. We have kept our aviation history alive here to this day with the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, which is also celebrating its birthday on the same weekend,” said Ms O’Shaughnessy.
“The place will be humming here again on July 5 and 6. And for the first time in 70 years, the control tower at Foynes will be active again. We will have thousands here on both days but huge crowds, in particular, for the air show. It will be fantastic for young and old and really will be one of the big memories of the year.”
The high point of the July festival will be a three-hour airshow on Sunday, July 6 featuring some of Europe’s leading aerobatic experts in a range of aircraft. Over 20 acts from Ireland, Britain and Europe are booked to appear in what promises to be one of the country’s most spectacular airshow for many years.
Sunday will also see the Taoiseach unveil a plaque to all who used the Foynes Air Base.
The festival will also include a stunning dare-devil display at dusk on Saturday by the UK based Breitling Wing Walkers as well as a Sky Pyro Show and a fireworks display over the river and harbour.