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All set for Foynes air-show spectacular as 75th anniversary of first commercial transatlantic flight is celebrated this weekend

02 July 2014

An estimated 15,000 plus people will flock to the European birthplace of transatlantic aviation this weekend as the Shannon Estuary town of Foynes marks the 75th anniversary of the first ever commercial transatlantic flight with two days of spectacular air-shows.

Some 30 plus aircraft will take to the skies over the West Limerick town in what will be the biggest air-show of the year in Ireland as the two day festival marks the historic moment in July 1939 when 19 VIP passengers arrived at Foynes from New York, via Newfoundland, on board the Pan American Airways ‘Yankee Clipper’ flying boat for the first ever commercial transatlantic flight. 

In stark contrast with the inaugural flight, which would have cost passengers at the time a hefty $675 for a return ticket – the equivalent of over $11,000 today – the air-show is free-to-public.  

The family festival, which runs over Saturday and Sunday, doubling as the 25th anniversary of the opening of Foynes Flying Boat Museum - the only aviation museum in Ireland and dedicated flying boat museum in the world.  The museum was officially opened in July 1989 by its Patron, actress Maureen O’Hara Blair, whose husband Charles Blair flew the last scheduled flying boat from Foynes to New York in 1945.

The weekend will see a stunning dare-devil display of aerobatics at dusk on Saturday by UK based Breitling Wing Walkers as well as a Sky Pyro Show  and fireworks display over the river and harbour.  The high point, however, will be a three-hour airshow on Sunday featuring some of Europe’s leading aerobatic experts in a range of aircraft.  

Among them will be the Raven Display Team from the UK which last weekend was awarded Best Civilian Display at a major air-show in Denmark attended by 120,000 people.  Others participating include the amazing Twisters and the only non-military formation aerobatic display team in Ireland, Aer Dynamics, featuring ‘the flying dentist’ Eddie Goggins and Limerick’s own Gerry Humphries. 

The event will also see the Air Traffic Control tower at Foynes operated for the first time since the airbase closed in 1945.  

In addition, there will be two sold-out gala dinners in the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, including the Shannon Airport sponsored event on Saturday night attended by Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism Leo Varadkar plus a host of dignitaries. 

Sunday night will see global leasing aircraft company AerCap throw its support behind the event with a second gala dinner, which will be attended by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny as well as Jerry Dean, Mayor of Botwood, Newfoundland, from where the historic Yankee Clipper flight set out from on the historic flight 75 years ago.  

All the leading Irish based aviation leasing companies will also be represented, plus heads of Shannon Airport, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Air Corps, Defence Forces, as well as American Airlines, whose forerunner American Export Airlines flew regularly into Foynes when it was the capital of transatlantic aviation from 1939 to 1945. 

Motorists can expect significant traffic restrictions over the weekend at Foynes, which will be closed to all through traffic, with detours in place around the picturesque town.  However, Shannon Foynes Port Company, whose biggest port is based in the town, has provided 17 acres of free car-parking for the public close to the centre of town over the weekend.  Bus Eireann are also running pre-booked busses to Foynes from Limerick for €10 for adults and €5 for children return.

Looking ahead to the event, organiser Margaret O’Shaughnessy, Director of the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, said that the two day spectacular will be a fitting tribute to the historic moment 75 years ago when Foynes became one of the key centres of global aviation. “We wanted to do something special to mark this milestone anniversary and I think we will achieve that at the weekend.  Foynes has a huge place in aviation and what better way to celebrate an anniversary like this than with two spectacular air-shows. 

“We would ask that people give themselves plenty of time to get here on both Saturday and Sunday.  Foynes will never have seen crowds like this but we are really looking forward to what will be a really special weekend here.”

Said Shannon Airport Chairman Rose Hynes,  “This weekend’s celebrations will be an appropriate tribute to the historic first transatlantic commercial flight. Margaret and her team in Foynes deserve huge credit for staging the event and Shannon Airport is delighted to support.  There is an inextricable link between Shannon and Foynes as Shannon continued what Foynes began and its only right that we would join them in this celebration this weekend.”


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