Toaiseach Enda Kenny will be among the many who will flock to the West Limerick town on July 5 and 6 as it celebrates the moment 75 years ago that the Pan American Airways ‘Yankee Clipper’ flying-boat made history with the first commercial transatlantic crossing to Foynes.
The Foynes/Shannon 75th Anniversary Airshow will be a key element of a weekend tribute to the airmen who crossed the Atlantic on the historic flight.
Air travel in those days was the preserve of the elite, as illustrated by the $675 fare – estimated to be the equivalent of over $11,000 (over €8,000) today – for a return ticket on the early flights into Foynes.
It took anything from 20 hours to reach Foynes from New York, via Newfoundland with passengers including members of the royal families, movie stars, military personnel and politicians.
The inaugural passenger flight to Foynes was largely used as a promotional opportunity with the passenger list dominated by media and Pan Am representatives.
This historic moment at the then ‘Shannon’ Airport will be celebrated with the family festival, which will run on Saturday and Sunday July 5 and 6 and will also double as the 25th anniversary of the opening of Foynes Flying Boat Museum.
The celebrations were officially announced at the weekend at Shannon Airport to coincide with yet another key milestone for aviation on the estuary – the 75th anniversary of the first aircraft, the Irish Air Corps Aero Anson A43, landing at Rineanna, which is now Shannon Airport.
The high point of the July festival will be a three-hour airshow on Sunday, July 6 when over 20 acts from Ireland, the UK and Europe are booked to appear and Taoiseach Enda Kenny will unveil a plaque to all who used the Foynes Air Base.
The festival will also include a dare-devil display at dusk on Saturday by the UK based Breitling Wing Walkers as well as a Sky Pyro Show and a fireworks display over the river and harbour.
Shannon Airport Chairman Rose Hynes said the 75th anniversary was not just significant for Shannon and Ireland but for aviation internationally.
“The name Shannon is recognized and respected across the world of aviation as it has such a pivotal place in the history of air-travel. It was the first European gateway for transatlantic flights and so much history also followed.
Flying Boat Museum Director Margaret O’Shaughnessy said the anniversary weekend would be one to remember.
“Foynes and Shannon Airport are the home of Irish aviation. The history we have is second to none here in Ireland and has few rivals internationally.We have kept our aviation history alive here to this day with the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, which is also celebrating its birthday on the same weekend.”
“For the first time in 70 years, the control tower at Foynes will be active again. We will have thousands here on both days but huge crowds, in particular, for the air show,” she said.
During the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, Foynes hosted many politicians, dignitaries and royalty, among them Charles Lindberg, John F Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Hope and Ernest Hemingway. Gracie Fields was even known to have sang quayside for staff.