Aer Árainn, the early years

There was a ferry service to the Aran Islands in the 1960s, but the ship could only dock at Inis Mór. In 1969 Colie Hernon wrote a letter to The Irish Times complaining of the inadequate transport facilities to the islands, which prompted Hayden Lawford to conduct an aerial survey of Inis Mór. Meanwhile Ralph Langan, whose business was fruit wholesaling in Galway, and who had problems shipping fresh fruit to the islands, had also seen Colie’s letter.

Ralph Langan arranged a meeting with Hayden Lawford, James Codd, Vincent Murray, and Michael Holland. They formed a new company, United Development (Galway ) Ltd, and visited Inis Mór and Colie Hernon to look at sites for an airstrip. The commonage at Killeaney was the most suitable, and eventually agreement was reached with the landowners. Dermot Grey was appointed to carry out the construction of the airstrip, with work beginning in early 1970. In April of that year, Hayden Lawford landed a plane on Aran for the first time. By now Vincent Murray had left the company and was replaced by Jimmy Coen, who would be the driving force behind the project over the next 10 years.

Bill Wallace was appointed as chief pilot and his experience was invaluable in those early years. Don Donnelly was responsible for engineering, James Codd for sales, and Colie Hernon became the airport manager on Inis Mór. The company’s first aircraft was delivered in July 1970, and a few weeks later, Aer Árann was granted a Class A authorisation to provide scheduled services to Inis Mór. The first terminal at Oranmore Aerodrome was a mobile home which had a passenger reception area and office, technical records and stores, and also acted as the chief engineer’s living accommodation. Another mobile home was where Bill Wallace and Hayden Lawford lived. The only facility at Killeaney was a caravan which served as Colie’s office and a passenger waiting room.

The first flights took place on August 8 1970. That night a gale force wind was lifting the aircraft off the runway, and to save them, the two pilots and eight locals sat in the planes as ballast to keep them on the ground. The return fare was £5 and a minibus service operated from the Imperial Hotel to Oranmore. Small freight packages were left at the Imperial, and special holiday offers included a return flight and a week’s accommodation on the island for £25. Later that autumn a gale blew the Killeaney caravan away and no trace of it was ever found.

In spite of all the difficulties, the pioneering spirit of the founders meant that in a short space of time, Eugene Horan travelled out every Tuesday with fresh meat, a Bank of Ireland official flew out to open the Kilronan sub-office every Wednesday, the Gardaí and clergy were becoming regular users, newspapers were delivered daily and, most importantly, the first emergency air ambulance flights had been operated.

Our photograph (courtesy of Tadhg Keady ) shows some of the early staff and founders. They are, from left: Marie Mulrooney, David Browne, Terry O’Laoire, Colie Hernon, Paddy Robinson, Pól Ó Foighil, Ralph Langan, Jimmy Coen, Noreen Donnellan, Gerard Coen, Bríd Conneely, James Codd, and Roger Haydock. The company has had its ups and downs (pardon the pun ) since, but the one constant for the last 45 years has been its unbroken and loyal service to the three islands which has provided a vital link to the mainland for the islanders, carrying local passengers, patients, tourists, freight, etc. Colie Hernon’s letter had the desired effect.

Are Árainn, the early years

There was a ferry service to the Aran Islands in the 1960s, but the ship could only dock at Inis Mór. In 1969 Colie Hernon wrote a letter to The Irish Times complaining of the inadequate transport facilities to the islands, which prompted Hayden Lawford to conduct an aerial survey of Inis Mór. Meanwhile Ralph Langan, whose business was fruit wholesaling in Galway, and who had problems shipping fresh fruit to the islands, had also seen Colie’s letter.

Ralph Langan arranged a meeting with Hayden Lawford, James Codd, Vincent Murray, and Michael Holland. They formed a new company, United Development (Galway ) Ltd, and visited Inis Mór and Colie Hernon to look at sites for an airstrip. The commonage at Killeaney was the most suitable, and eventually agreement was reached with the landowners. Dermot Grey was appointed to carry out the construction of the airstrip, with work beginning in early 1970. In April of that year, Hayden Lawford landed a plane on Aran for the first time. By now Vincent Murray had left the company and was replaced by Jimmy Coen, who would be the driving force behind the project over the next 10 years.

Bill Wallace was appointed as chief pilot and his experience was invaluable in those early years. Don Donnelly was responsible for engineering, James Codd for sales, and Colie Hernon became the airport manager on Inis Mór. The company’s first aircraft was delivered in July 1970, and a few weeks later, Aer Árann was granted a Class A authorisation to provide scheduled services to Inis Mór. The first terminal at Oranmore Aerodrome was a mobile home which had a passenger reception area and office, technical records and stores, and also acted as the chief engineer’s living accommodation. Another mobile home was where Bill Wallace and Hayden Lawford lived. The only facility at Killeaney was a caravan which served as Colie’s office and a passenger waiting room.

The first flights took place on August 8 1970. That night a gale force wind was lifting the aircraft off the runway, and to save them, the two pilots and eight locals sat in the planes as ballast to keep them on the ground. The return fare was £5 and a minibus service operated from the Imperial Hotel to Oranmore. Small freight packages were left at the Imperial, and special holiday offers included a return flight and a week’s accommodation on the island for £25. Later that autumn a gale blew the Killeaney caravan away and no trace of it was ever found.

In spite of all the difficulties, the pioneering spirit of the founders meant that in a short space of time, Eugene Horan travelled out every Tuesday with fresh meat, a Bank of Ireland official flew out to open the Kilronan sub-office every Wednesday, the Gardaí and clergy were becoming regular users, newspapers were delivered daily and, most importantly, the first emergency air ambulance flights had been operated.

Our photograph (courtesy of Tadhg Keady ) shows some of the early staff and founders. They are, from left: Marie Mulrooney, David Browne, ----- , Colie Hernon, Paddy Robinson, Pól Ó Foighil, Ralph Langan, Jimmy Coen, Noreen Donnellan, Gerard Coen, Bríd Conneely, James Codd, and Roger Haydock. The company has had its ups and downs (pardon the pun ) since, but the one constant for the last 45 years has been its unbroken and loyal service to the three islands which has provided a vital link to the mainland for the islanders, carrying local passengers, patients, tourists, freight, etc. Colie Hernon’s letter had the desired effect.

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