It was an honour to be part of the Pan Am reunion Gala dinner at the Strand Hotel recently. Over the course of three days Limerick played host to over 300 former pilots and crew of the famous airline. The event was organised by Margaret O’Shaughnessy of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.
Up to ten flights a week came through Foynes between 1939 and 1945. However, the construction and opening in 1942 of Shannon Airport on flat bogland on the northern bank of the Shannon Estuary started a new chapter in aviation history for the mid west region in Ireland.
|Some of our visitors to Limerick at the recent Pan Am reunion|
Air travel was the preserve of the elite and very wealthy 75 years ago, as illustrated by the $675 fare – estimated to be the equivalent of over $11,000 (over €8,000) today – for a return ticket on the early flights into Foynes.
Passengers in those early days of commercial aviation travel included members of royal families, movie stars, military personnel and politicians.
In Limerick’s history the River Shannon has played a major role in economic, social and history development of the city. The Shannon acted as a key transporter of people, cultures and trade.
The Foynes aviation project brought this aspect of the River Shannon to iconic new level helping to make Limerick city, county and the greater Mid-West region accessible on global scale.
As our visiting guests celebrated their special reunion in Limerick they arrived as Limerick witnesses a transformation in terms of its economic, cultural and social history.
The visit coincides at a time when a positive, can do attitude is prevailing. We are region confident and excited about its future just as Pan Am must have been as they made their first transatlantic voyage all those years ago.
|The famous Yankee Clipper landing in Foynes|
The recent development of Shannon Airport gaining independence has resulted in a similar confidence at the airport that is now seeing a major boost in passenger numbers and significant growth in its European and North American destinations.
We look forward to this continued growth and welcome Shannon Airport playing a major role in the future development of the Mid West region.
We in Limerick are proud of Foynes for putting us on the map as not only the home of the Irish coffee but as the home of the only dedicated flying boat museum in world.
The fact that Pan Am chose the city at this time shows the lasting relationship and legacy the company has with Limerick.
The welcome theyreceived shows the appreciation our city and county has for the major influence they had on the development of transatlantic and aviation history
Great credit is due to Margaret O’Shaughnessy and her team at Foynes. This event was a significant one. Limerick had the opportunity to showcase itself to a global audience over three days.
It was suggested that this event would be the last of Pan Am’s reunions. Based on the energy in the room at the Strand Hotel last week something tells me Limerick will be welcoming the Pan Am family again in years to come.