Gulf airline Etihad Airways inks training deal with Conneely's Weston Airport
College Ireland Aviation (CIAS), based in Weston Airport, near Leixlip, has signed a memo of understanding with Etihad Airways, one of the fastest growing airline companies, to provide aviation training services.
CIAS was part of the Irish trade mission during the Taoiseach's visit to the Emirates earlier this month. CIAS is also in talks with the other growing Gulf-based airlines about bringing foreign aviation students to colleges and training facilities throughout Ireland to train.
Brian Joyce, managing director of CIAS, said Ireland was ideally suited to provide training services for the burgeoning Gulf airlines. "Etihad is the fastest growing airline in the world and, with Qatar and Emirates, intends turning the UAE into the world's most important aviation hub. We are excited about the prospects and intend returning to the UAE very shortly to meet the other airlines.
"Our intention is to create a cluster of training services in Ireland along with colleagues and universities to provide aviation university training from degrees in aviation engineering, pilot, crew resource management and cabin crew training."
CIAS, which has among its shareholders the new owner of Weston Airport, Galway engineering and building company Brian Conneely & Co, is already providing training for students from Mozambique, Croatia and Libya.
The Conneely Group bought the airport, formerly owned by businessman Jim Mansfield, for an undisclosed sum last year and Mr Conneely is intent on expanding the training college to cater for other ground-based education services and private jet traffic from Weston.
Brian Conneely pointed out that the airport can provide a turn-around time for private jets of 20 minutes compared, the owners say, with up to two-and-a-half hours it is taking to turn around similar small business jets at Dublin Airport.
The airport is benefiting from the new generation of quiet jets and has been used by executive visitors to the IFSC and for the major multinationals based locally, such as Intel and Hewlett Packard. In the past year, it has also been used by a Russian company interested in Irish property, which has been flying in and out on the new €37m Bombardier Challenger, one of the new generation of quiet turbo-fan jets.
Mr Conneely said: "As a direct corporate jet service for Dublin, Weston can facilitate private and business travellers to the city's financial districts and the equestrian interests of Co Kildare, with a faster turn-around time and a lower handling cost alternative to Dublin Airport."
The new owners are also in talks with local community and political groups about the future development of the airport, college and lands. The airport has a mile-long stretch of the banks of the Liffey and the new owners are in talks with Kildare and Dublin councils and local groups about providing a walk-way and park.
"We are looking into several potential uses for some of the beautiful riverside parkland for sports and walkways in conjunction with the local community and sports clubs.
"When people hear about aviation training they think of pilot training but there are so many expanding areas in ground-based education, such as aviation English, cabin crew, engineering, air traffic and handling, which require formal, classroom-based education.
"We are liaising with Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Aviation Authority and Dublin and Kildare local authorities and we are confident of acquiring their approval of our development objectives," Mr Conneely said
"Our efforts to redirect and redevelop Weston are gathering momentum. There are positive signs that the aviation sector is undergoing a recovery. The storm clouds of the economic recession appear to be receding and with such positive plans in the area the future seems very bright indeed in the skies over Weston."
The new company's intention, he said, was to keep all local groups informed of developments at the airport.
Weston is also providing dismantling and services for CHC, the Canadian company that runs the helicopter rescue services for the Irish Coast Guard and which recently made a €55m expansion to its Irish-based fleet.
The press launch by CHC at Weston last week was addressed by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who said that the new S92 helicopter would enable the Irish Coast Guard to "fly faster, further and for longer" in life-saving missions.