After our successful 2016 group visit to RNAS Yeovilton, next up was a visit to the Irish Air Corps at their home of Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, South West Dublin.
Arranged for Tuesday 7th March, a number of group members travelled to Dublin from Bristol Airport on the preceding day in order to spend some time photographing the movements at Dublin Airport. We’d also received permission to visit the Irish Coast Guard unit, which is also based at the airport.
We flew with Aer Lingus Regional (Stobart Air) on ATR 72 EI-FSL, sadly one in an all-white livery but which impressed us all with its power of acceleration on takeoff. On arrival at Dublin we saw an interesting visitor in the shape of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30CF N330AU which had arrived the previous week.
After collecting our hire car we explored the airfield perimeter before heading to the Irish Coast Guard unit and their Sikorsky S-92A registered EI-ICR which uses the call-sign ‘Rescue 116’.
We spent two hours talking in depth to the on-duty crew and photographing the helicopter.
It was a fascinating insight into the work they do and we’re grateful to each of them for taking the time to answer the many questions we posed before they prepared for a training flight which was to be conducted later that afternoon. We would also be given the opportunity to photograph their departure from the hangar area but unfortunately the deteriorating weather meant the flight was cancelled and the S-92 was pushed back into its nice dry hangar to await its next call to duty.
At the time of writing this article we are unable to include any further images of our visit as we are yet to obtain company approval for publishing them.
Further information on the Irish Coast Guard can be found HERE in the accompanying document which was kindly provided to us.
We are indebted to Ciaran Parker, Chief Pilot, and Grant ‘Sid’ Lawrence, for their help in making the visit possible together with the welcoming on-duty crew.
After a quick trip around the perimeter of Dublin Airport, we parked up in the lay-by on the old Airport Road where photographing the arrivals and departures over the airport fence is possible due to an earth embankment. We spent a few more hours here before retiring to our hotel for the night.
The weather the following morning, Tuesday 7th March, was forecast to be a lot better as the rain from the day before had passed through. We headed over to the Irish Air Corps base at Baldonnel where we would be given a tour of the airfield hangars and their museum.
Arriving at the main gate, we were quickly through and met our guide for the visit. We were able to visit each hangar, apart from the paint shop and the active flight line, and there were no restrictions on photography so we were free to snap away.
The Irish Air Corps (IAC) was formed in 1922 and Casement Aerodrome, their only operating base, is home to around 750 men and women and the airfield itself is a former Royal Flying Corps site dating from 1917.
There are around 25 aircraft in its inventory, if you include the based Garda Air Support Unit, and this is made up of fixed wing Cessna FR172H, Pilatus PC-9M, Casa 235, Learjet 45, and BN Defender, and AW139 and EC135 helicopters.
We were able to photograph nearly all of the aircraft on the IAC inventory, only one PC-9M (260), one AW139 (278) and Casa 235 (252) were not seen on our visit.
Also located in one the hangars at the airfield is the Irish Air Corps museum, which contains a selection of aircraft that had previously been operated by the Air Corps, including an SF-260, Avro Anson and Percival Provost T-1. Also of note was ex-Finnish Air Force Magister FM-28 outside of the museum.
Our thanks go to all at the IAC, in particular Martin Gavagan, who were so helpful in allowing us to visit.
The next stop on our trip was to the nearby Weston Airfield, where we were able to take in lunch at the excellent cafe and were granted airside access with photography. Unfortunately only one hangar was open on the day, so some of the reported more interesting residents, such as the Grumman Goose, were not able to be seen.
Then it was back to Dublin Airport for some more time photographing the arrivals and departures from the same location as the previous day, before the light began to fade & it was time to return our hire car.
Our return flight was on Ryanair Boeing 737 EI-DPX which was the last flight out of Dublin that day and the last scheduled flight into Bristol, arriving back at 22:40. Once back it was then time for the group to head off home, happy but tired.
POST REPORT NOTE: It was with great sadness that we learned of the loss of Rescue 116 the following week with the loss of four crew. Rescue 116 was assisting in a rescue mission off the west coast of Ireland and one of those lost was winch operator Ciaran Smith who we had met on our visit. Our thoughts are very much with his family and those of the three other crew members who died that day, Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy and Paul Ormsby.
© South West Aviation Photographers 2017 – Gary Morris, Kev Slade, Matt Sudol & Al Huggins.