Final countdown is on for double Foynes celebration

Aviation history and birth of Irish Coffee to be saluted at upcoming weekend

Maria Flannery


Maria Flannery

Final countdown is on for double Foynes celebration

David Fielding, the flying display director for Foynes Air Show, is keenly looking forward to the July 22 event Picture: Michael Cowhey

THE FINAL countdown to the Foynes Air Show is officially on, and one person who will be extremely busy for the next two weeks is David Fielding, the flying display director on the day.

The qualified pilot and flying instructor is responsible for making sure the show on July 22 goes off without a hitch, and every single detail is accounted for.

“The process begins in April or May every year. There are first preliminary meetings to invite all the various agencies that would be concerned - the HSE, gardai, fire service, Irish Aviation Authority and air traffic control,” said Mr Fielding, who is based at Limerick Flying Club as an instructor.

“I’ve been involved more or less every year. Usually behind the scenes. On the day, I supervise the entire thing,” said David, who also works for an American flying operator based in Shannon.

Could the air show be affected by some unseasonal wind or rain?

“The wind doesn’t affect it as much as people think. Visibility is the biggest thing we need to consider,” he added, explaining that the pilots need to be able to see for several kilometres.

“And because of where Foynes is on the Shannon Estuary, we are actually very close to Shannon - a few minutes journey away in a plane. We have to work closely with their air traffic controllers to operate on the day, because we can’t disrupt commercial flights” he explained.

The following day will see Foynes celebrate Irish Coffee - a concoction that was first mixed in the west Limerick port village.

The Celebration of Irish Coffee 2017 will be an afternoon and night of festivities for all age groups, featuring street entertainment, live music, comedy and fireworks, in the birthplace of the internationally-renowned hot drink.

Street entertainers, jugglers, balloon model artists and face painters will begin the celebrations in Foynes at 2pm, while the focus of the festivities will move towards the Museum Square for live music with Jason Fallon at 3pm and comedy with Brendan Grace.

“While the largest ever Foynes Air Show will help us mark our aviation history, Sunday, July 23 is the day we remember Foynes as the birthplace of the Irish Coffee with this special day of celebration which will also be free and open to all,” explained Margaret O’Shaughnessy, director of the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum.

“The first ever Irish coffee was created here in the restaurant of the Foynes Airport Terminal, one dark wintery night in 1943 by the chef, Tyrone native, Joe Sheridan. That fateful night, a flight left Foynes for New York, but bad weather forced its return to wait for safer conditions. Joe was asked to prepare something to warm the weary passengers when they were brought to the restaurant upon landing, and that was when inspiration struck.

“He put some good Irish whiskey into their coffee and later, when one passenger approached the chef and thanked him for the wonderful coffee, asking if he used Brazilian coffee, Joe jokingly replied, ‘no, it was Irish coffee!’ And so the Irish Coffee was born,” laughed Margaret.

“It continued to be served to passengers at Foynes, and can now be enjoyed in the Irish Coffee Centre at the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum, as well as restaurants throughout the world. Venice has its Bellini, Puerto Rico has the Piña Colada, but Foynes will forever be the birthplace of the Irish Coffee and we believe that is worth celebrating,” she added.

Dr Eddie Goggins and the Make a Wish Foundation had previously hoped to run a competition during the air show, but have had to alter their fundraising plans. Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, the competition to win a trip on an aerobatic flight has been postponed for this year.

Champion pilot Eddie will continue to raise funds for the children’s charity on the day with a text to donate option.