Waterford Airport celebrates 30 years of flight
Waterford Airport today marks 30 years of air services to and from the southeast of Ireland.
It was on Tuesday, December 15, 1981 that the Department of Transport & Power granted an operational licence for the IR£1.5m airport.
The occasion was marked with an inaugural 25-minute flight from Dublin on Avair’s IR£2m, 30-seater aircraft. Avair’s Chief Pilot, Capt Hank Vanderzee, was at the controls for the flight with passengers including Chris Hennessy, Airport Manager and Gerry Connolly, Managing Director, Avair.
The airport was granted its full flying wings in March 1982 when the Department of Transport & Power sanctioned a licence for international flights. This coincided with an announcement by Avair that a twice-weekly mid-day scheduled service between Dublin and Waterford was to commence on March 29, 1982.
Flights would depart from Dublin Airport at 12 noon on both Monday and Friday, arriving in Waterford at approximately 12.40pm. The return service to the capital would then leave at 1pm. The single fare was set at IR£24 while a return ticket cost IR£46.
Operated by start-up airline Ryanair, Waterford’s first international scheduled air service left the airport for Gatwick on Monday, July 8, 1985. The twin turbo prop aircraft in use on the route could seat 15 passengers while the trip was scheduled to take 90 minutes each way. The service left Waterford at 8.30am with the return flight leaving Gatwick at 7pm.
Reflecting on 30 years of development and growth at the airport which is now home to the Irish Coastguard Search & Rescue helicopter base and the Pilot Training College of Ireland, as well as its main business of offering regular passenger flights with Aer Arann Regional, Graham Doyle, CEO, Waterford Airport said: “It’s been a remarkable journey with lots of twists and turns, peaks and troughs but through a great deal of hard work by many people over three decades the airport has reached this milestone.
“While certainly not unaffected by the economic climate, we look to the future with confidence based on what has been achieved to date and the level of support the airport enjoys from passengers and stakeholders across the Southeast as well as from our inbound passengers in the UK and our various business partners.
“As well as recognising and thanking all of the personnel who have worked at the airport in various capacities since 1981, it would be remiss of me not to also acknowledge the tremendous inputs from all those shareholders and directors who have supported the airport through challenging times. Their time commitment and continued energy has been vital to the airport’s survival and success. In particular, we recall at this time the contributions of two former chairmen who are sadly no longer with us – Dr Cormac Macnamara and Nicky Fewer. Our current Chairman, Dan Browne, and our Board do a tremendous job in the interests of the Southeast region.”
The airport CEO also recalled some of the other happenings in Waterford in December 1981. “It was the first trading Christmas for the new George’s Court shopping centre which opened in a site assembled around the former Hearne’s department store with an initial 14 outlets on 12,000 square feet. Phase two of that successful development was already being planned to take advantage of the proposed pedestrianisation of George’s Street.
“Also on December 15, 1981, the then Minister of State, Eddie Collins TD, announced the creation of up to 400 jobs in the pharmaceutical sector as Sterling Drug Inc outlined plans for a facility in Dungarvan. Construction was to begin in early 1982 and due for completion in the first half of 1984. Stafford Miller had commenced production earlier in 1981 at a separate facility in Dungarvan.
“Others making headlines in December 1981 included Bausch + Lomb who were hiring a Process Engineer for their start-up contact lens manufacturing plant in Waterford where they expected to ultimately employ 500 people. The tendering process was underway in the same month for the IR£4m Rice Bridge which was to replace structure that had been in place for almost 70 years.
Waterford Airport celebrates 30 years of flight. Pictured on the Runway of Waterford Airport enjoying the celebrations during Waterford Airports 30th birthday (Today December 15th) are Joanne Mahony (Customer Services Administrator) in the Airports 1980's uniform, Nicola Kelleher (Passenger Services Administrator) in the Airports 1990's uniform and Aoife Maloney (Passenger Services Administrator) in the Airports 00's look. Photo Patrick Browne