Seaplanes unlikely to return to Shannon until next year

SEAPLANES are unlikely to return to the Shannon until next summer - despite An Bord Pleanala giving the go-ahead to open a terminal in the city and Foynes.

SEAPLANES are unlikely to return to the Shannon until next summer - despite An Bord Pleanala giving the go-ahead to open a terminal in the city and Foynes.

An Bord Pleanala has cleared the way for Harbour Flights Ireland to construct a seaplane terminal beside the Clarion Hotel.

This comes several months after a similar facility in Foynes was granted by the national planning authority.

But because the company is awaiting full approval from the Irish Aviation Authority, the head of the firm Emelyn Heaps said he does not expect a seaplane service to begin until next summer.

The firm is planning a regular seaplane service from the heart of Limerick, to Foynes, Galway and the Aran Islands, with the western seaboard just a 20 minute journey away,.

Limerick represents Harbour Flights’ sixth base, with other locations including Galway, Dublin, Cobh, Foynes and its main operation base on Lough Derg.

The company has been working closely with Margaret O’Shaughnessy of the Foynes flying boat museum.

The plans first went in during 2010. But they have been beset with delays, due to a number of submissions from groups including St Michael’s Rowing Club, An Taisce, and Inland Fisheries.St Michael’s said in its submission that if the proposal gets the green light, then they would have no choice but to move to O’Brien’s bridge, County Clare, which would be a big inconvenience for the club.

Chairman Pierce McGann said this is due to the safety hazard running a seaplane along would cause to rowers.

Mr Heaps this week welcomed the grant of permission, adding that four jobs will be created in Limeick.

“But the plan is not about direct jobs, it has never been about that. The concept is getting tourists in and out of Limerick, offering other destinations. It will sustain existing tourism, it will create new tourism projects, and it will also put Limerick on the map as a seaplane base,” he said.

He added that it is “a shame” that services will not start in the city until next summer.

As for services, he plans to charge around €50 for a seaplane seat between Limerick and Galway, and will run services between the two cities as demand dictates.

“What we want to do is align ourselves to taxi and coach firms. Seat costs will be between €40 and €50 one-way, and this gives people the option of experiencing a sea-plane flight.

“If they cannot afford a return flight, we would partner with coach firms so they offer the return journey,” he added.

Harbour Air Ireland is building a network of terminals linking Ireland’s major towns and cities, and will continue this expansion by building a further five bases across the island.