A dream of flight
Have you ever flown into Ireland? Did you look out of the aeroplane window and see the Cliffs of Moher or the Giant’s Causeway? Maybe you spotted the yellow talons of the cranes at Harland and Wolff and Titanic Belfast or Strangford Lough?
Then again, maybe your only view was of the wing. Did that wing happen to sport a bright green shamrock? If it did, then you flew on Ireland’s first airline: Aer Lingus.
But as we all know you don’t just start out as a nation’s go-to airline. First, you’ve got to make a name for yourself.
For centuries, man had gazed on the birds of the sky with sheer envy. Sure, we built various contraptions that took us into the air, ramshackle hot air balloons and other winged monstrosities (if you need to brush up on your aviation history, may we suggest a trip to Foynes in County Limerick).
But it wasn’t until 1903, when brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright built the world’s first functioning airplane, that man truly mastered the skies.
Not long after, flagship airlines began springing up around the world, bravely taking passengers into new worlds like never before.
For Ireland, that airline bringing the world to Ireland and the Irish to the world was Aer Lingus.
Ireland’s first airline
For over 77 years, Aer Lingus has flown people to and from the island of Ireland. To many people Aer Lingus remains the Irish airline. In fact, its company logo (a three-leafed shamrock) is derived from an ancient story told of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick.
It was during an Irish summer – May 22, 1936 to be exact – when Aer Lingus Teoranta was founded and that shamrock calling sign first entered the skies. Just five days later, on May 27, captain Eric Armstrong made Aer Lingus’ first flight from Dublin to Bristol. The aircraft that made the crossing was the first the company ever purchased – a DH 84 Dragon christened ‘Iolar’ (‘Eagle’ in Gaelic).
Irish aviation history was made.
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The significance of Aer Lingus’ foundation cannot be understated. Being able to facilitate aircraft and having an airline of its own was a major plus for Ireland, both politically and economically. Sitting pretty on the extreme west of the continent, Ireland was the first stop between Europe and America.
This made Ireland the perfect launch pad for something that had never been done before: a full non-stop trans-Atlantic flight. It may not seem like a big deal today, but back in the early 20th century, the very idea of flying such a distance was mind-boggling.
On June 14-15, 1919, British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight, taking off from Newfoundland in the US and landing on a beach near the town of Clifden in Galway’s Connemara. History had been made and a new and exciting flight route seemed a little more possible.
Fast-forward to 1958 and Aer Lingus (now a thriving commercial airline) made its first trans-Atlantic flight with style. The aircraft chosen was a Super-Constellation aptly named ‘St Patrick’.
It’s journey? Why Shannon in County Clare to New York City, USA, of course.
Onwards and upwards
Since the turn of the 21st century Aer Lingus has been ever expanding, creating new routes throughout Europe and the entire world. Few airlines have become such an important part of their nation’s national and cultural identity as Aer Lingus.
No matter where you are in the world, the sight of the proud green shamrock on an Aer Lingus plane is a reminder that Ireland is only a flight away.