Up, up and away in a business flying towards success
Laois farmer mixes work with pleasure as his passion gives pilots a haven to realise dreams and offers a boost to tourism revenue
Jerry Deegan is a farmer with a passion for planes and flying. While most farmers would tell you they have little time for indulging in their passions, Jerry has not only made the time but has created the space to accommodate his love of flight and aircraft.
From the outside, Limetree Farm, located between Portarlington and Mountmellick in Co Laois, looks like any ordinary farm with its sheds and green fields -- but behind and inside the sheds is a different world.
One would expect the building to be full of bales, farm machinery and cattle but instead they are home to an array of magnificent flying machines, from biplanes of the kind that would have seen action over the battlefields of World War One to home-built light aircraft known as microlights and gyro planes that look like helicopters without a body. The field behind the shed is a long, well-kept strip of ground marked out with white bollards.
Limetree Airfield is Jerry's field of dreams built on his 81ac suckler and tillage farm. With the help of his own investment and some LEADER funds from the Laois Partnership Company, he has managed to develop a 408m airstrip, a control room and hangar space. While he claims the investment of €250,000 is not making him a millionaire, it is wiping its face with rental income and creating a lot of life around the farm.
"From the first time I went to Shannon Airport as a young lad to see my aunt off to the USA, I have loved planes and flying," says Jerry.
"I remember looking with wonder at the 707s and the 747s and wanting to fly in them. I had a first cousin who worked on an aircraft carrier during the Korean War and he was one of my heroes."
Twenty years passed after his first trip to Shannon before Jerry did his pilot training and took to the skies in a plane he built himself.
"It is a fantastic feeling to get up there into the blue in a small aircraft, there in nothing like flying," he says. "No matter what's on my mind, when I taxi down the runway in my little plane and take off, I leave all my cares behind and when I come back after an hour in the air I'm a new man."