Thursday 13 December 2018

'I spent about €25,000 a year on it' - giant collection of model aircraft goes on display in Ireland

A Limerick man's collection of 1,500 model airplanes is now on permanent display at Shannon Airport.

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

There are hobbies. And then there are hobbies.

Over several decades, Michael Kelly (67) has collected some 1,500 diecast model planes - spending up to half-a-million euro in the process.

Now, the Limerick man's collection has gone on permanent display in a most appropriate home - Shannon Airport, where his obsession with collecting began.

"It started when I was a little boy," the Farranshone native recalls in this video (above), produced by Bridge PR. "My Dad, God rest him, used to bring me to Shannon Airport.... whatever was between me and aircraft, it was just magic."

At 16, Kelly visited a model aircraft shop in Wales, returning home with a whopping 17 planes. During a career as a plumber/fitter, he saved as much money as possible - spending up to €25,000 a year on models.

"Mad money!" he laughs. "I spent a luxury house on it."

Michael Kelly with his collection at Shannon Airport. Screengrab: Bridge PR
Michael Kelly with his collection at Shannon Airport. Screengrab: Bridge PR
Michael Kelly's model aircraft collection, at his home in Limerick
The world's largest plane, Antonov An-225, which is paying a flying visit to Shannon Airport today. File photo.
Model Aircraft Collector, Michael Kelly. Pic: Arthur Ellis
Model Aircraft Collector, Michael Kelly. Pic: Arthur Ellis
Piggy-back? An Antonov 225 gives a lift to a Space Shuttle

These aren't just any old models, of course.

All of Kelly's collectibles are 1:200 in scale, with individual pieces including a range of Concordes that perfected take-off ability at Shannon to Ryanair's first Boeing 737 and even a 1930s Sunderland aircraft owned by Al Capone.

Modern planes include models of the world’s largest aircraft to fly commercially, the Antonov, which has also transited Shannon; and the full Aer Lingus collection.

Until this year, Kelly kept his collection in a purpose-built, 65-foot display space at his restored farmhouse in Janesboro, Co. Limerick. It gets its official opening at Shannon Airport next Tuesday, September 25.

Michael Kelly's model aircraft collection, at his home in Limerick
Michael Kelly's model aircraft collection, at his home in Limerick
Michael Kelly with his collection at Shannon Airport. Screengrab: Bridge PR
The world's largest plane, Antonov An-225, which is paying a flying visit to Shannon Airport today. File photo.
Model Aircraft Collector, Michael Kelly. Pic: Arthur Ellis
Model Aircraft Collector, Michael Kelly. Pic: Arthur Ellis
Piggy-back? An Antonov 225 gives a lift to a Space Shuttle

“Over a number of engagements with Michael we discussed what could be done," explains Niall Maloney, Shannon's Operations Director - who describes the haul as "an aviation enthusiast's heaven".

"This is the largest diecast model collection in the world. We’re just delighted, with Michael’s goodwill, that it’s based here now in Shannon.”

The catch? You need to be a passenger to see it. The collection is currently on display in a dedicated gallery in Shannon's Departures lounge (i.e. after security), where it has already been attracting huge attention from passers-by.

After a lifetime spend amassing model aircraft, Kellly says he has no regrets.

"It was a very, very hard journey... that I absolutely adored. I’m chuffed that they’re in Shannon now."

 

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