VIDEO & PICS: Plans aired for ‘world-class’ national aviation experience visitor centre

Key figures in Ireland’s aviation industry have united to develop a multimillion-euro national aviation experience visitor centre.

They have established the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF) and hope to lodge a planning application for the facility before the end of the year.

DHC-1 Chipmunk

Eamon Brennan, the chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and a volunteer with the IHFF, said they have earmarked several sites for the facility, including one near Casement Aerodrome at Baldonnel, but a final decision on where the facility will be built has yet to be made.

Chief Executive of the Irish Aviation Authority, Eamon Brennan talks aviation

Funding has also been identified from across the industry to deliver the ambitious development.

“This is the kind of project that comes along once in a lifetime,” said Mr Brennan.

“We aim to create a world-class experience, something for our kids and future generations to enjoy.”

Mr Brennan was speaking at Cork Airport during a nationwide IHFF promotional tour to highlight its work.

Set up last December, the IHFF manages a fleet of five historic aircraft — Aer Lingus’s first passenger aircraft, a DH 84 Dragon, Iolar, which operated between Dublin and Bristol from 1936; three restored De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft flying in Aer Corps colours and which were used as the main Aer Corps training aircraft for over 30 years from the early 1950s; and a 1928 Stearman, once owned by the late Cathal Ryan, son of the late Ryanair founder Tony Ryan.

The foundation brought the fleet to Cork Airport last weekend and took to the skies, flying in formation over Kinsale and Cobh.

Three De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft fly information south of Cork Airport
Three De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft fly in formation south of Cork Airport

Mr Brennan said it is fitting that Ireland finally has such a foundation to preserve its aviation heritage.

“Ireland is the hub of global aviation. One in every two aircraft in the world is leased out of Ireland. The biggest airline in the world operates out of Ireland,” he said. “In the UK, they have Spitfires and Hurricanes. But this is our own version.

Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary all set for take off onboard the 1928 Boeing Stearman biplane
Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary all set for take off onboard the 1928 Boeing Stearman biplane

“The whole idea is to build up the fleet like they do in the UK, and to develop an aviation experience centre, a multi-purpose museum and scientific exhibit in Dublin or Shannon.”

The foundation is supported by the Air Corps, the Departments of Defence and Transport, the IAA, and airlines including Aer Lingus, Ryanair and Stobart.

Guests Nick Weston, Weston Aviation and Helene Wall Horan of Irish Business Aviation Association beside the Iolar
Guests Nick Weston, Weston Aviation and Helene Wall Horan of Irish Business Aviation Association beside the Iolar

IHFF chairman, Mick Hickey, Ryanair’s chief operations officer, said they hoped to acquire more aircraft, including a Bandeirante, a DC3, the Supermarine Spitfire T9, and a static model of the Aérospatiale Alouette 3 helicopter, which played a huge role in Irish search and rescue history.

Front view of the DH-84 Dragon ’Iolar’
Front view of the DH-84 Dragon ’Iolar’

You can find out more on www.irishhistoricflight.com.

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