A flying boat service which has taken to the skies will initially attract tourists but then expand to provide commuter links between Foynes, Galway, Dublin and Cork.
The first sea plane service took off from Mountshannon, Co Clare, yesterday.
Harbour Flights will initially offer scenic aerial tours of Lough Derg, Limerick, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher.
The service started with a Cessna 172 four-seater, and within the next few weeks Harbour Flights will acquire the first of five Cessna 206 seaplanes which are six-seaters.
“We have a business plan in place and when fully operational we will also purchase two 19-seater de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft,” said Harbour Flights chief executive Emelyn Heaps.
He has extensive experience in the tourist industry, having worked in the Caribbean and is involved in Clare Resorts, a successful timeshare company which lets out properties in the region.
“Our intention is to connect Ireland through its waterways, lakes, rivers and estuaries by offering scenic flights which crisscross the country,” Mr Heaps said.
“When fully operational, Harbour Flights will create 50 new jobs.”
Initially, the service will concentrate on giving tourists a new perspective of Ireland. But Mr Heaps said the company is also seeking to develop commuter flights between larger urban areas.
He said that the advantage of flying boats is that they can land at quays in the heart of a city.
Sea planes will eventually be based at a number of locations where they can offer localised tourist-orientated flights as well as commuter flights.
“For example, one based in Dublin would be able to take people over the city, Blessington Lake and the Wicklow Mountains. Galway would service the Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands etc. We could base one in Cobh which would cover the Cork and Kinsale area,” Mr Heaps said.
Harbour Flights hopes to carry 10,000 passengers across Irish skies in its first year of operation.
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