Pictured at the launch of the Westport Air Show, which takes place on Sunday, May 14, are from left: Catherine Burke, Bank of Ireland, Westport; Trevor Fitzgerald, What’s on in Westport; Maria Ruddy, Clew Bay Hotel; Seán Hoban, Centra Westport; Joe O’Malley, Mill Times Hotel and Destination Westport and Neill O’Neill, Westport Chamber of Commerce and The Mayo News. Pics: Conor McKeown
THE cow might never have actually jumped over the moon as the old nursery rhyme stated, but this May he will take to the skies over Mayo, when the Westport Air Show takes place on Sunday May 14.
You would be forgiven for thinking that your eyes are deceiving you as the world famous Breitling Wing Walkers soar past with their daredevil stunts, or that you are in an imaginary land as the Catalina flying boat whizzes by, something you only ever see in fairytales. ‘The flying dentist’ Eddie Goggins will also be performing aerobatic tricks in his Mayo-themed propellor plane, while spectators will also be transported back through the ages as biplanes and the type of aircraft associated with the early days of aviation perform their routines, stunts and aerobatics as part of this flagship Westport 250 year anniversary event. The above mentioned ‘Flying Cow’ will also make an appearance among the 20 plus acts, as will the Irish Air Corps and the Irish Parachute Club, who are planning a special demonstration. There will also be family fun on the ground with a carnival, food and crafts and pleasure helicopter flights available. Estimated crowds for the event vary wildly, but 15,000 is the attendance being mooted, and a comprehensive traffic and emergency plan is currently a work in progress, as is a full environmental and litter plan.
At present it is hoped to have this event running from 1pm to 7pm at Westport Quay, while the air show itself will take place across two and a half hours from 3pm to 5.30pm. All the aircraft will take off from Ireland West Airport and will enter the display arena over the Quay area from the sea, coming in from the direction of Croagh Patrick and travelling from west to east, before turning over Westport House and returning to the airport. A dedicated air traffic control centre will be established at Westport Quay to communicate with the domestic Irish and international aircraft. The Westport Air Show will be promoted nationally, regionally and internationally and is one of the biggest events planned along the Wild Atlantic Way in 2017. Between the novelty factor and the quality of the planned show, along with it being a free and fun event for all the family, it is hoped the air show will bring a significant boost to tourism and spending in the region. A comprehensive PR, marketing and digital communications plan is already in place, and people were asked at the event launch in The Coast Hotel at Westport Quay last week, to spread the word by every means possible. A website www.westportairshow.com is now active and contains further information on this one-off event, while a special 80 æpage colour brochure commemorating the participating acts and all areas of aviation is being produced for sale at the event.
While the focus at the launch was on the upcoming aerial displays, the irony of the loss of the Irish Coast Guard’s R116 helicopter in Blacksod Bay two weeks ago was not lost on anybody, and tributes were also paid to the Coast Guard, whom it is hoped will be available to participate in the Westport Air Show.
Cathaoirleach Al McDonnell paid tribute to the Coast Guard, saying it would be remiss not to pause and think of the missing Coast Guard crew and their families and colleagues.
Returning to the air show, he lauded the ‘vision and innovation’ of the committee and those behind the project, saying it will be an extraordinary event, which the council is pleased to be associated with.
Chief Executive Peter Hynes also spoke of the ongoing search for R116. On the concept of Westport’s two hundred and fiftieth birthday, he described it ‘as a brilliant idea for a year long celebration for a brilliant place’. He said the air show is one of the highlights of the schedule and will be something to really savour, and thanking the council team and the elected members who backed the project, and said he was ‘really looking forward to it’.
There have been all manner of special events hosted in the county over the years, but this one- off air show promises something extra special, on what will be an unforgettable day of free family fun at Westport Quay. Mark the date on your calendar now.