Aerfort is a new three part documentary series which looks at three of Ireland's Airports, capturing something of the history and lore which gives each their own character and appeal.
The excitement, the romance, the smell of aviation fuel, the shopping, the setting off point for holidays or new lives abroad, the homecomings. Airports have evolved from exotic gateways to our dreams to something maybe more everyday.
Programme One - Cork
RTÉ One, Monday 13 February 2012 at 7.30pm
In the first episode Garry Mac Donncha goes local and explores Cork, which celebrated its 50th birthday last October. In the 1980s the Cork Airport slogan was 'the small airport with the big heart', and even though a trendy new terminal opened in 2006, the airport still prides itself on a warmth and friendliness that doesn't exist everywhere. The people of Cork have always been very proud and protective of their airport - in the early days people even held their wedding receptions there.
Cork has also seen its fair share of tragedy over the years, the most famous being the Tuskar Rock disaster where 61 people lost their lives on a Cork-London flight in 1968. Last year 6 people died when a Manx2 Airlines flight crashed at the airport, close to the spot where 4 people died in 1964 when a Piper crashed shortly after takeoff.
But it's also an airport that loves catering for the stars who pass through, from Jayne Mansfield and Fred Astaire to Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. And Cork are very proud of the fact that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England said goodbye to the people of Ireland from their runway after her successful visit last year but Cork pride predates the Royal Visit as Local TD Stephen Barrett TD revealed in his remarks on occasion of the opening of Cork Airport 50 years ago...
"Apart from today being a great occasion for us in Cork, it is also a great occasion for London, Cardiff, Bristol and other overseas settlements - since it is the first time that they have been brought in immediate contact with the true centre of modern civilisation."
Programme Two - Shannon
RTÉ One, Monday 20 February 2012 at 7.30pm
In the second episode of this three part series, Aerfort, Padraig O'Driscoll looks back at the unique story of Shannon airport and its survival against all the odds. A story that began in the late 1930's with the birth of Irish aviation history when the Irish Free State government, under Éamon de Valera, realised the important geographical position of Shannon as a transatlantic gateway, resulting in the transformation of 760 acres of marshy and boggy land into an international aviation hub.
After World War II with new freedoms in air-travel, Shannon Airport was ready to be used by the many new commercial airlines of Europe and North America. On 16 September 1945, a Pan Am DC4, the first transatlantic flight, landed at Shannon from New York City. The number of international carriers rose sharply in the succeeding years as Shannon became well known as a key stopover between Europe and America. Local visionaries such as Brendan O'Reagan exploited that opportunity to develop the airport and generate income for the region by opening the world's very first duty free shop in Shannon.
Flying the Atlantic in the 50's and 60's wasn't cheap and many of those who landed briefly in Shannon were considered VIPs. Among those who sampled the famous Shannon Airport hospitality were Marilyn Monroe, Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby and Princess Margaret. Shannon airport was also often at the centre of the world's media as its runway was graced by the presence of leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton and the airport still prides itself in being the departure point for Pope John Paul II.
Shannon airport has been credited with an historic series of aviation firsts; the first duty-free shop in the world, followed a few years later by Ireland's first transatlantic mail-order company. Then came the first tax free industrial zone in the world, which led to the building of Shannon town, the first new town in Ireland in the 20th century and Shannon was also the first airport in Europe to offer US Immigration Pre-Inspection Facilities. All of these firsts were the result of the imaginative ideas implemented each time the airport's survival was threatened.
The story of Shannon Airport and its survival is unique and since its very inception doubts have been cast on its viability. The advent of the jet age, the removal of the compulsory stopover, the veritable collapse of the airline industry in the wake of 9/11, the controversial use of Shannon as a stopover for American troops, the departure of Ryanair, separation from the Dublin Airport Authority and contracting passengers numbers have presented different sets of challenges for the airport. Those in Shannon Airport however, the birthplace of Irish aviation, believe that they can meet current challenges again with pioneering ideas from a group of dedicated people determined to save their unique airport and bring Shannon into a new era of prosperity.
Reporter - Padraig O'Driscoll
Producer/Director - Laura Ní Cheallaigh
Programme Three- Dublin
RTÉ One, Monday 27 February 2012 at 7.30pm
In the final instalment in the Aerfort series Fachtna Ó Drisceoil lands at Ireland's biggest and busiest airport - Dublin. But an airport that handles an average of 60,000 passengers per day, rising to 80,000 during the peak season, and more than 600 aircrafts movements every day is still in many ways a small community at heart of people who keep the 24/7 operation moving. Whether it's airside or landside, the Met. service or snow clearance, Fire & Rescue or Bird Control - behind the scenes there's a cast of characters who have aviation fuel in their veins.
Collinstown was selected as a potential airfield as far back as 1917, so in many ways its development has mirrored that of the State and has left a unique architectural heritage which captures the highs and lows of design in Ireland. Architect Toal O'Muire gives a professional and personal insight into the Terminal buildings and their design, culminating with the new and sometime controversial Terminal 2. Eoghan Corry - Editor of TravelExtra, who claims to be the most travelled man in Ireland - gives T2 the once over from a travelling passenger's point of view.
Reporter/ Presenter: Fachtna Ó Drisceoil
Producer/Director : Kevin Cummins