The Irish Air Corps and Casement Aerodrome

Casement Aerodrome is the headquarters of the Irish Air Corps.

Working in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel one is often reminded of the history of the Aerodrome. This beautiful Aerodrome has seen incredible acts of bravery and courage that have helped shape and develop not only Irish aviation but aviation worldwide.

The first east-west Atlantic crossing by air

The airfield was first used by the royal flying corps in 1917 which was the predecessor of the Royal Air Force. The Aerodrome was famously used for the first ever successful East to West crossing of the Atlantic Ocean with our very own Commandant and Commanding Officer James Fitzmaurice acting as second pilot. The aircraft was called the Bremen, a German made Junkers W33. She departed on the 12 April 1928 with Baron Hunefeld (the aircraft owner) and Capt Herman Kohl acting as pilot. After a flight of 36 and a half hours they landed on Greenly Island, situated between Labrador and Newfoundland in the Strait of Belle Isle in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. News of the successful East-West crossing of the Atlantic was greeted with jubilation throughout the world. This was in fact Commandant Fitzmaurice’s second attempt to cross the Atlantic after the first one (Princess Xenia) had to return to Baldonnel due to poor weather.

Michael Collins

Another not so common story is that Michael Collins had his aircraft based in Baldonnel, a Martinsyde Type A Mk biplane which he had available in case negotiations with the British broke down and he required a safe exit from the United Kingdom. The propeller boss has an honoured place within the Officers’ Mess.

Aer Lingus

The very first Aer Lingus flight departed Casement Aerodrome going to Bristol on May 27, 1936 using a De Havilland Dragon named “the Iolar”. A sister ship of this beautiful aircraft can still be seen flying today by Aer Lingus at air displays.

Irish Air Corps Helicopter Wing

The most decorated wing of the Irish Defence Forces is the Irish Air Corps Helicopter Wing (Number 3 Operations Wing) which has over five decades of active service. More than 5,000 air ambulance missions and 2,300 search rescue operations have been carried out since the first helicopter touched down at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, 55 years ago.

Irish Air Corps cadets are based at The Fitzmaurice flying Training School FTS

Walking towards FTS you pass a beautiful old hangar, hangar 4 and its museum. It has magnificent arches inside and a fabulous museum. Then you pass Big Fella Street and hangar 3 which has housed and maintained the helicopters of Number 3 Operations Wing. It’s difficult not to think what Casement Aerodrome must have been like, the buzz surrounding the place with the first arrival of commercial aircraft, helicopters and fighter jets. One can only dream of the stories the aerodrome could tell.

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