Shannon today celebrates 80 years as a passenger airport.
On July 11, 1939, a Belgian airliner, tri-motor Sabena Davoia Marchetti S-73, landed on the newly-opened and then named Rineanna airfield.
Soon after it became known as Shannon Airport and its development sparked an economic transformation of a region.
Today Shannon Airport is Ireland’s second-largest long-haul airport - the only one outside the capital offering direct flights to key Irish markets, the UK, European mainland and US. And crucially, it has played a major role in driving economic growth,with more than 40 per cent of US Foreign Direct Investment companies in Ireland are in the airport’s catchment.
According to the Shannon Group, it generates €3.6 billion in GVA for the Irish economy each year and contributes €1.15 billion annually in tax revenue to the Exchequer. More than 46,000 jobs are supported by the activities of Shannon Group.
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Mary Considine, acting CEO of Shannon Group, says celebrating the 80th anniversary cannot be passed without acknowledging all who worked across the decades to make Shannon such a pivotal asset for the region.
“We are hugely proud of history here at Shannon, and our pioneering reputation is recognised and respected across the world of aviation. Shannon Airport was the first European gateway for transatlantic flights, and over the past eight decades we have welcomed every serving US President, royalty, famous actors and musicians along with tens of millions of international travellers.
“We are very proud of the place we have earned, through our commitment to innovation, in global aviation. Today we are remembering not just the 80 years, but everyone who helped build this special airport and worked with pride and dedication across those decades to make it such a storied and central part of this region."
Above all, she says, Shannon airport is imbedded in its community.
"We would like to thank our customers for their loyalty and support over the years and ask them for their continued support in the years ahead," says Ms Considine.
It is a far cry from 80 years ago when just eight passengers and crew arrived on board the Belgian airliner.
Yet it was a truly momentous occasion for the west of Ireland. Those passengers were greeted with cheers from the assembled staff of the new airport before they were taken to Foynes to board the Pan American’s ‘Yankee Clipper’ Boeing 314 flight bound for New York. But it is reported the crowd had mushroomed to 500 to watch the Belgian airline take off on its return journey to Croydon in England and then on to Brussels.
By 1942, the airport was renamed Shannon Airport, and three years later the runways were extended to allow transatlantic flights.
One of the most innovative developments was the establishment of the world's first Duty Free shop which has been copied worldwide. What began as a small kiosk staffed by one woman, grew into a multi-billion dollar global retail industry.
Today Shannon International Airport has the longest runway in Ireland at 3,200 metres and is the only Irish airport that can accommodate the world’s largest jet, the Antonov AN 225. Other major milestones included becoming, in 2009, the first airport in the world, outside of the Americas, to provide full US pre-clearance facilities, while in 2017, Shannon become the first airport in the world to open a sensory room for passengers with autism or special needs.
Shannon Group plc, which is a commercial semi-state company established in 2014, employs more than 600 people, operates and manages three companies; Shannon Airport, Shannon Commercial Properties and Shannon Heritage, and through its IASC brand promotes the growing aviation cluster at Shannon.