Friday 24th June 2016 was a most enjoyable day at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, when 50 ex-Irish Air Corps personnel who had served in Air Traffic Control throughout previous decades, attended by invitation, to celebrate 80 Years of Military Air Traffic Control in Ireland. A warm welcome in the Air Corps Museum, introductions, reminiscences, visits to the Control Tower, when old acquaintances, mainly from the 1960s, 70s, 80s 90s and early 2000s were briefed on the latest procedures. The oldest gentleman present could trace his Air Corps days back to 1950/51/52 and served in both Baldonnel & Gormanston Control Towers in the days of grass runways and paraffin-filled goose-neck flares.
A native of Portlaoise, he presented the G.O.C. with an illustrated record of the 1912 Portlaoise Plane (or Maryborough, as it was in 1912) the first aeroplane to be built and flown in what later became The Republic of Ireland. Both airframe and engine manufactured in the old Aldritts Automobile Works, the plane, which made its historic flight over the Great Heath of Maryborough, is now in an East Sussex museum alongside Sir Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird, K3, in which he took the water-speed record on Lake Maggiore in 1937. Visitors to the museum wondered why this aeroplane, which had put Portlaoise on the map as the birthplace of aviation in Southern Ireland, was on show in East Sussex and not in its native town or County.