Time flies - Shannon Airport celebrates 80 years since first flight

Mike Finnerty

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Mike Finnerty

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michael.finnerty@limerickleader.ie

Time flies - Shannon Airport celebrates 80 years since first flight

Eighty years ago this Thursday, the first flight landed in Shannon Airport

SHANNON Airport is celebrating 80 years since the first landing of a passenger aircraft at the Clare facility. The historic landing happened on Tuesday, July 11, 1939.

Eighty years ago a Belgian airliner - a tri-motor Sabena Davoia Marchetti S-73 – landed on the newly opened and then named Rineanna airfield and gave lift-off to what would soon after become known as Shannon Airport.

Fast forward the 80 years and Shannon Airport is Ireland’s second-largest long-haul airport, the only one outside the capital offering direct flights to Irish consumers most in-demand markets – the UK, mainland Europe and US.

This bustle of activity and the luxury of US pre-clearance stems from a very modest arrival of eight passengers and crew on board the Belgian airliner – but by 1930’s standards, it served as a moment of wonder in rural Ireland.

The passengers were greeted with cheers from the assembled staff of the fledgling airport before they were whisked to Foynes to board the Pan American’s ‘Yankee Clipper’ Boeing 314 flight bound for New York.

The news spread quickly of the presence of the Belgian airliner at Rineanna and by the time the crew returned later that night for their return trip, up to 500 people had gathered to watch its take-off on the return journey to Croydon in the south of England and then onto Brussels.

By 1942, a serviceable airport had been achieved and was named Shannon Airport. By 1945 the existing runways at Shannon were extended to allow transatlantic flights.

Today Shannon International Airport has the longest runway in Ireland at 3,200 metres and is the only Irish airport that can accommodate the world’s largest jet, the Antonov AN 225 and recently welcomed Air Force One for the visit of President Trump.

During the Space Shuttle era, Shannon Airport was earmarked as a possible emergency landing site were a problem to arise during a launch as it was the only runway in Ireland large enough to hold such a vehicle.

Mary Considine, Acting CEO, Shannon Group said that celebrating the 80th anniversary cannot be passed without acknowledging all who worked across the decades to make Shannon such a pivotal asset for the region.

 “We are hugely proud of history here at Shannon, and our pioneering reputation is recognised and respected across the world of aviation.

“Shannon Airport was the first European gateway for transatlantic flights and over the past eight decades we have welcomed every serving US President, royalty, famous actors and musicians along with tens of millions of international travellers.

“We are very proud of the place we have earned, through our commitment to innovation, in global aviation.

“On Thursday we are remembering not just the 80 years but everyone who helped build this special airport and worked with pride and dedication across those decades to make it such a storied and central part of this region."

“Above all, we are an airport that is embedded in our community, we would like to thank our customers for their loyalty and support over the years and ask them for their continued support in the years ahead,” said Ms. Considine.