LAOIS was represented at a recent international conference in Clifden to mark the centenary of the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown in June 1919.
The Laois delegation consisted of Teddy Fennelly, president of the Laois Heritage Society; Catherine Casey from Laois County Council; Michael McEvoy, president of the Model Aeronautics Council of Ireland (MACI) and a member of Laois Model Aero Club; and John Mulholland, chief executive at Laois County Council. The conference was organised by Galway County Council.
Teddy has written numerous books, including Fitz and the famous flight, a biography of Col James Fitzmaurice, Ireland’s most famous aviator.
At the conference he spoke about Portlaoise native Col Fitzmaurice, who was co-pilot of the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Europe to North America in April 1928.
Those present were also fascinated to hear about the ‘Portlaoise plane’ built by Louis and Frank Aldritt. It’s the first aircraft that was built and flown in Ireland, when it covered a short distance in November 1909.
Addressing the conference, Teddy said: “We know that Colonel James Fitzmaurice helped in its construction as a young boy and it’s quite likely that this is where the seed was sown for his lifelong passion for aviation.
The aircraft remained in storage in the original Aldritt motor works at Bank Place, Portlaoise until the late 1970s. It was acquired by a private collector, who transported the plane to his premises in England until we recently brought it back home.”
Another highlight of the conference was the display of model aircraft by Laois and MACI members Michael McEvoy, Mel Broad, Heather Broad and Martin Sweeney.
Michael McEvoy said: “MACI was formed in 1939 by a group of model aircraft enthusiasts. Today, almost 6,000 enthusiasts have passed through MACI, many carrying their interests to a life in aeronautics, designing, maintaining and piloting a range of aircraft from a Cessna 150 to a 747 jumbo jet, while others have taken the road to military aeronautics.
Laois Model Aero Club is one of 29 clubs nationwide with almost 500 members.
Heritage officer Catherine Casey said: “With so many strands to the story, the history and the future of aviation in Ireland is firmly centred on Co Laois. We look forward to working closely with MACI and Laois Heritage Society as we start to plan for the centenary of the first east/ west transatlantic flight in 2028.”