ENNIS woman Gráinne Cronin, who was the first female pilot appointed by Aer Lingus over 30 years ago, was among 70 pilots who were honoured by President Mary McAleese recently.
At the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association’s annual dinner in Dublin, President McAleese was the guest of honour as awards were presented to pilots who had recently retired.
President McAleese praised the association and outlined Ireland’s many achievements in aviation history. She told those gathered that Gráinne and her fellow female captains Maria Hetherinton and Susan Kavanagh “has a distinguished place in the still young annals of aviation in Ireland”.
Speaking to the retirees she said, “The legacy of those who have worked so hard to put Ireland centre stage in global aviation is evident today. This sector is not only an essential part of our economic infrastructure but is a key enabler of maintaining our connectedness with the rest of the world.”
Gráinne, a native of New Road, Ennis, who now lives in Dublin, joined Aer Lingus in 1977 as their first female pilot. The airline were second only to SAS in Scandinavia in hiring the first female pilots in Europe.
The 55-year-old said that having spent half her life in the air, she is now happy to spend her retirement on Terra Firma. Aviation is very much a family business for Gráinne. She followed in her father, Felim’s, footsteps in joining Aer Lingus. Her husband, Neil, retired as a pilot from Aer Lingus just a few years ago and her daughter, Louisa, now takes the reins as a new pilot in the company. Her other daughter, Alana, also holds a private pilot’s licence, while Gráinne’s sister, Caroline, is a commercial pilot.
Following her appointment as pilot, Gráinne excelled at Aer Lingus and went on to become a captain operating the Shorts 360 aircraft. In 1988, having successfully received her command, Gráinne appeared on RTE’s The Late Late Show.
On August 2, 1988, the first all-female Aer Lingus crew operated a flight from Dublin to Shannon with Gráinne in command and First Officer Elaine Egan on board the airline’s landmark flight.
She retired last May after 33 years flying high. To mark the occasion, she was joined by Captain Elaine Egan and First Officer Shelley Gahan on her final flight from Dublin to Boston.