Dr. Bill O' Gorman, from WIT, speaking about this site on WLR

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The evolution of Waterford Airport

Waterford Airport was set up by Waterford Corporation with State and private support in 1979/'80 at an investment of €1.76 million. The airport opened in December 1981 with a 1200 metre long and 29 metre wide runway for single and twin-engine light aircraft. The terminal building was initially a portacabin. The first customer at the airport was Waterford Aero Club, who are still successfully flying from the airport.

Avair provided the first scheduled passenger service from the airport between Waterford and Dublin in April 1982. The failure of Avair in February 1983 left the airport without a scheduled passenger service until the arrival of Ryanair in 1985. Though the airport continued operations with air taxi flights for the business community, occasional charters to race meetings and of course the training of pilots, an activity that has always been a daily part of operations at Waterford.

The 8th July 1985 was a historic day for the small airport in the South East, as on that day Ryanair commenced the airport’s first international scheduled passenger service between Waterford and London-Gatwick. This was to be Ryanair's very first scheduled service (their scheduled operations from Dublin started in May 1986). The fledgling airline started the London route with a humble 15-seat Embraer Bandeirante.

Demand soon exceeded the capacity of this aircraft and the service was upgraded to a 44 seat Hawker Siddley 748 in May 1986. At the same time the opportunity was taken to switch the service to London-Luton.

Luton Airport has remained the most successful and convenient destination for Waterford passengers since then.

Following a change in policy, Ryanair discontinued services from Irish regional airports and its place on the London route was soon taken in 1993 by Manx Airlines using BAe Jetstream 41, 29 seat aircraft, this time flying to London-Stansted. Within two weeks of starting operations from Waterford, Manx Airlines added the Manchester route. Manx Airlines later became British Regional Airlines and traded under franchise as British Airways Express to Waterford until January 2001.

The small family owned airline Suckling Airways operated along side British Regional Airlines using Dornier 228 18 seat aircraft to London-Luton from 1994 to 2000.

In January 2001 Euroceltic Airways commence scheduled services from Waterford to London-Luton using 44 seat Fokker F27s. In November 2001 the company added Liverpool and in October 2002 a link to Dublin was established.

In January 2003, Euroceltic ceased operations but was succeeded by Aer Arann in June 2003 on the important Waterford to London-Luton route. Also in 2003 Pilot Training College Ireland established their training base at Waterford Airport.

Aer Arann has successfully grown its operations since their introduction to Waterford adding in turn London, Manchester, Lorient (summer only) and, in May 2007, Birmingham.

Slattery Sun and Atlantic Airways introduced three new destinations from Waterford Airport in June 2007 – Bordeaux, Faro and Malaga – using BAe146 short take off and landing (STOL) jet aircraft. This marked the first time that “summer sun” destinations have been made available from the airport. It is also noteworthy in that it was the first time a jet airliner has been regularly used on scheduled passenger flights from Waterford. In 2008, these routes will be operated by Aer Arann using 146 aircraft, with the addition of Amsterdam – a very exciting development with Waterford Airport having a link to one of Europe’s main hubs.

Waterford Airport is currently at the early stages of a substantial capital development programme to be completed by the end of 2009. The total programme amounts to €27.7 million, with €22.3 million of this funding recently allocated by the Minister for Transport under the Department of Transport’s Capital Expenditure Grant Scheme. The projects funded under the development programme will transform Waterford Airport. We will see improved facilities and a much-improved experience for those flying to and from the airport. The programme encompasses the extension of the runway to 1,850 metres long and 45 metres wide. The ability to accommodate mid sized jets will allow us to tap into the region’s pent up demand for additional scheduled services and charter business.

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