The Aran Islands celebrate 40 years of air travel this weekend — honouring an invaluable service and life-line which began with a letter.
The writer behind the letter, Coley Hernon, had been involved with the lifeboat service on the island of Inis Mor taking patients to the mainland, and realised that “there was bound to be a better way” explains his proud son, Michael, manager of Inis Mor airport. He said that his civic-minded father wrote to the local newspaper in 1969 and it was seen by a group of Galway business who then got involved in the project and work started on the foundations of the airfield in January 1970.
“The first official opening of the air service took place on August 15, 1970. For the first two years the plane would fly out to Oranmore but we had problems with that as it would get water-logged during the winter and so we would have to fly to Shannon for two months of the year. Then after that, we got a permanent base at Carnmore when that opened.
“The idea was born in October and by January work had commenced, now that’s an achievement. My father was involved in the airport until he passed away 15 years ago and then I took over. My father was involved in everything on the island, the bank service, the setting up of electricity, or any developments that were going on, he had a hand in it. He received an honorary doctorate for rural development in 1972 from UCG. The family and the islanders are very proud of him,” he said.
The advent of the air service brought many changes for the Aran Islands. When the air service began operating daily flights it meant more transport choice for the islanders and also provided better assistance in medical emergencies and transferring patients to hospitals.
Forty years on and the air service remains an integral part of life on the Aran Islands. “I believe the air service is here to stay as peoples’ lives depend on it. It’s there for good,” says Michael.
Celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of air travel to the islands is due to take place at Inis Mor airport on August 15 at 1pm.
Aer Arann operated its first commercial flight in 1970 and by the 1980s the service had changed dramatically with the beginning of the Dublin to Galway route. In 1994, ownership of the company changed hands falling under the stewardship of Padraig O’Ceidigh. By 2001, Aer Arann detached from Aer Arann Islands with the two becoming separate companies and airlines.