Sunday 26 October 2014

Mum travels back in time as airport marks 25th birthday

Published 31/05/2014 | 02:30

Martina Callaghan O'Meara was part of a school group that flew on the inaugural flight from Kerry to Luton in May 1989
Martina Callaghan O'Meara with her son Adam

SHE had never been on an plane before but since her journey on the first commercial flight leaving Kerry Airport, five million passengers have passed through the airport.

Martina Callaghan O'Meara was 11 and in fifth class at Knockaderry National School when her name was pulled from a hat to be one of 18 from the school chosen to be a passenger on that first flight to Luton 25 years ago.

Since then, the airport has welcomed heads of state including Bill Clinton and former Israeli president Chaim Herzog; was the first port of refuge for Kosovo refugees fleeing the war in 1999; and has welcomed millions of tourists and business people to Kerry.

It is one of only two regional airports along with Donegal that maintains its public service obligation (PSO) contract supported by government that subsidises flights between the capital and the most distant regions.

That first flight 25 years ago was a very big deal for the school's children.

Now a mother-of-two, Ms O'Meara recalls: "My sister Karen, who was in sixth class, was also on the flight and our mother brought us to the hairdresser in Currow to get our hair done.

"It was a big occasion and I remember being frightened, but then they handed out sweets before take off.

"I think I still have the cushion they gave us to put around our necks somewhere at home."

Irish Independent

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