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Derek Coleman and Kevin O'Donovan in the control tower.

Foynes Tower controls flying once again

THE clock at Foynes historic air traffic control tower, will be turned back to the glorious early days of aviation on July 5 and 6 next, as the 75th anniversary of the first ever commercial transatlantic flight is celebrated.

Organisers of the Foynes-Shannon 75th Anniversary Air Show, which will mark the landing in July 1939 of the Pan American Airways Yankee Clipper flying boat that brought the first commercial flight across the Atlantic, have confirmed that the restored ATC tower at the facility will be the control base for the spectacular air show.

Officers from the Air Traffic Control base at Shannon Airport will transfer over to the historic Foynes base for the two air show extravaganzas, which are set to be attended by over 10,000 people.

The two spectacular displays will amount to the biggest air- show of the year in Ireland, as more aircraft than any other such event in the country will take to the skies and deliver a must-see show for both aviation buffs and the general public.

While the air shows will be the highlight of the weekend in the skies, there will also be much activity on the ground, with street entertainment and music adding to the sense of celebration at Foynes.

There will be two gala dinners – already completely sold-out – in the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum, the first of which takes place on the Saturday night and is being sponsored by Shannon Airport.

This will be attended by Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism, Leo Varadkar, plus a host of dignitaries, including An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Jerry Dean, the mayor of Botwood, Newfoundland, from where the historic Yankee Clipper flight set out 75 years ago. They will also be joined by deputy mayor, Scott Sceavour.

Over 30 different aircraft and acts will participate in the air show, from The Breitling Wing Walkers and the amazing Twisters, to the only non-military formation aerobatic display team in Ireland, featuring Eddie Goggins, ‘the flying dentist’.

Also confirmed are two de Havilland Chipmunks in Irish Air Corps colours and the Aer Lingus de Havilland Dragon, which are coming together for the 2014 season to celebrate 50 years of Irish cadet pilot training.

With aircraft ranging from fast jets to vintage biplanes flown by world-class display pilots, the Foynes-Shannon 75th Anniversary Air Show celebration promise to be a weekend to remember, according to its organiser, Margaret O’Shaughnessy, director of the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum.
“Huge effort has gone into pulling this celebration together and rightly so, as the first transatlantic flight was a historic moment for world travel. We’ve come a long way in aviation since then but it did all start here. We have never forgotten that and certainly intend to remind everyone we can about it over the course of our anniversary weekend, with this really fantastic celebration.
“It will be the biggest air show of the year in Ireland and we will have thousands here to see it. Foynes will be alive again in aviation terms, like it was back in the day.

“Having the control tower active again for the air shows really adds to the nostalgia of the event. What stories this old tower could tell, back to the days when royalty, film stars, diplomats, military personnel and even war refugees were directed safely onto the waters of the River Shannon at Foynes and were given a great Irish welcome by the staff here.

“Even through the war years, Foynes was an important transit point for thousands of passengers.

“When the Pan American Airways Yankee Clipper touched down here at Foynes on Sunday July 9, 1939, with 19 VIP passengers, it started an aviation history for the Shannon Region that continues, thankfully, to this day.”

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