Families of Aer Arann founders ask Govt to continue ethos of heroic little airline

The front page of the Galway Advertiser on the occasion of Aer Arann’s first flight in 1970.

The front page of the Galway Advertiser on the occasion of Aer Arann’s first flight in 1970.

As the families of the original founders of Aer Arann in 1970, we are in total agreement with the people of the Aran Islands who want the Aer Arann service to continue, a tried and tested service that they have relied on for the last 46 years.

The ethos of the company was to be of service to the Aran people and, to link them with the facilities of the mainland particularly the medical services to which they were entitled. The ferry service was often subject to vile weather and regularly left them stranded for days.

The main founders were Ralph Langan a Galway businessman and fruit wholesaler, Jimmy Coen a Galway entrepreneur and publican and Colie Hernon a far seeing Islander and coxswain of the Inismor Lifeboat who dreamed of an air service to Aran. The two men bought into Colie’s dream and the three men together were a force to be reckoned with.

In retrospect it seems like an impossible dream. How do you land an airplane on a rocky island? Undeterred they set about building a landing strip on Inismor, an island with only three cars and no machinery.

They procured a World War 2 Landing craft and transported all the machinery and other necessities out from Galway! This is the stuff that movies are made about and the stories are legend. They put their own money up front - no handouts or subsidies in those days, just plain old blood, sweat and tears!

Fast forward 10 years or Aer Arann’s visionary progress. They now had landing facilities on all three islands all with regular flights to the mainland, 4 Britten-Norman twin engined aircraft to cater for a burgeoning charter business plus the first ever scheduled daily flights from Galway to Dublin as well as their core business which was the Aran Island service. In the mid seventies they were the proud winners of the much coveted UDT tourism award for Ireland.

In 1980 having brought Aer Arann to its peak under the guiding hand of Jimmy Coen they sold the company to Roscommon born UK based businessman Tim Kilroe and moved on to other ventures. Those great pioneers have now passed on but their families and friends and the people of Aran request the Government to continue the ethos of a heroic little airline founded in 1970 to provide regular and most importantly reliable Fixed Wing air service to the Aran Islands.

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