Kilkenny Aerodrome - History
Licensed in 1965 and is one of Ireland's Oldest Airfields (Over 52 Years)
Kilkenny Airport (Est. 1963)
The airport was originally owned by Mr. John Hehir (deceased). The idea of the airport was established in or around 1963 by a group of local Kilkenny aviators including Mr Hehir, Mr Martin Mulhall (deceased), Mr. Edward Stallard (deceased) and Mr. Patrick Nolan. The Airport received it's first license by the Department of Transport & Power on the 30th April 1965. At that time, there were only a handful of aerodromes in Ireland and almost all of them had grass runways.
Kilkenny Airport Limited (Est. 1971)
In 1971 Kilkenny Airport Limited was incorporated and it purchased the airport from Mr. John Hehir for £12,000 Irish Punts. It became a community business interest and several people contributed money to buy the airport. The vision at that time was that this airport could become a major employer to the local medieval city and boost tourism and provide an aviation sport recreation facility for the area. This was headed by Tourism Chief, Mr Patrick Nolan. It was envisaged that Kilkenny Airport would become the South-East Regional Airport.
Kilkenny County Council Funding (1974 - 2007)
The Kilkenny Local Authority has had a significant financial and other involvement with the development of the airport since the early 1970's. Since around 1974, the Council funded most of the airports existing facilities. Funding was also supplied during this period from Bord Failte and the South Eastern Tourism Board to fund various annual events including the internationally known KinAir Rally.
The Kilkenny Council provided an annual operational fund to the airport for 27 years from 1980 to 2007. From 1980 to 1990 this fund was allocated at £4,500 Irish Punts per annum. In 1990 it was increased to £10,000 per annum. Following the economic downturn in 2008, the Council funds were no longer made available to the airport. It is estimated that in excess of €2,000,000 EUR (modern value) has been contributed to Kilkenny Airport from Kilkenny Local Authority.
The Councils funding paid for operational buildings including the control tower and aircraft hangar/operations building, runway extension and drainage, runway lighting, fuel installation, and the car park. from 1980 to 2007, members of Kilkenny County Council held positions on the board of directors of Kilkenny Airport Limited.
The airport is a central part of Kilkenny, and local families, schools and scout clubs frequently visit for picnics and free family events. Everybody are welcome.
Kilkenny Airport is the home to the internationally recognized Kin-Air Rally which was first hosted in 1972. This event was headed by Kilkenny Tourism Chief and Managing Director of the airport company, Mr Patrick Nolan, who remains an avid pilot and aviator to this day. This major event ran for over 30 years and attracted pilots and aircraft from all over Europe and North America. It was one of Europe's largest aviation gatherings. The event was a huge success and thousands of people attended each year. It was honoured by President of Ireland, Mrs. Mary Robinson who wrote;
"the spirit of adventure that inspired the early pioneering aviators is still there in the owners and flyers of smaller aircraft which take part in rallies such as KINAIR".
Kilkenny Airport is one of the longest established privately licensed airports in Ireland, established now for over 52 years It is the largest privately licensed airport. It has the longest grass runway in Ireland, which is almost 1km in length. It is the home ground for Irish sport aviation. Although the economic downturn has had a significant effect on the progress of the airport since 2007, it is showing signs of normal activity again.
Clubs & Operator History
Operator & Date Established
· Irish Gliding Association - Est. 1959
· Kilkenny Flying Club - Est. 1971
· Iona National Airways - Est. 1931
· Dublin Gliding Club - Est. 1973
· Clonmel Gliding Club - Est. 1974
· Irish Parachute Club - Est. 1956
· Parachute Association of Ireland - Est. 1970
· Falcons Parachute Club - Est. 1991
· Kilkenny Flying and Gliding Club - Est. 2004
· Recreational Flying Club Limited - Est. 2008
· Irish Aero Sports Flying Club - Est. 2005
· Conor Air Park Developments - Est. 2007
· Freefall Ireland Skydive Centre - Est. 2010
· Irish Skydiving Club - Est. 2011
Iona Airways was Ireland's first commercial airline and was established in 1931 at Collinstown Airport, (Now known as Dublin Airport). Iona offered passenger transport flights all over Ireland and frequently operated flights to and from Kilkenny Airport from 1970 to 1980.
Race for South-East Regional Airport
In 1980 the EEC announced funding to develop regional airports. Kilkenny Airport was suitably positioned to become the South East Regional Airport having been established for almost 20 years at this stage. Waterford City competed to establish the South East Regional Airport. Waterford County Council funded the development of a new Airport consisting of a terminal building and a hard surface runway 1,200m in length by 23m wide. The new airport is in Killowen located 10km south of Waterford City, in between Tramore and Dunmore East. The battle between Kilkenny Airport and Waterford Airport EEC funding continued but eventually Waterford won the race due. Although Kilkenny Airport was more central and had been established for almost 20 years, it had lost out to its newly established neighbouring airport. Some critics say that if Kilkenny County Council had invested more funds to develop Kilkenny Airport it would have won the bid for South East Regional Airport.
Change of Ownership
After 37 years ownership under Kilkenny Airport Limited, the aerodrome changed ownership to Conor Airpark in 2007. From 2007 up to 2014 the airport had suffered greatly from the economic downturn. Since 2014 the aerodrome has a new private owner who has granted the operational use to the Irish Skydiving Club Limited T/A Irish Flying Club, who are the current Operators & Aerodrome License holders.
52 Year Planning Permission History
Kilkenny Airport is expressly authorised in terms of planning permission. It is first mentioned in the 1967 County Development Plan and has been specifically listed in the Transport Policy of the Kilkenny County Development Plan since 1994 and up to 2020. It is listed as a supported development with specific policies to promote and support the continued development of the aerodrome. The airport has been expressly granted planning permission for several airport developments since around 1976 and it further benefits from exempt development for sport use.
Securing the Airports Future
Notwithstanding the authorised status of the airport, the Councils planning department, stated in 2011, that the airport had no planning permission at all. On this basis, the planning department refused permission for two new planning applications and issued enforcement action. This was reported locally in the Kilkenny People.
However, the planning departments error was eventually corrected in 2014, following an extensive legal and planning research effort by the airports current owner. The Council expressly admitted its error and expressly confirmed that the airport is fully authorised. How such an error could have been made still remains unclear.
However, the airports future is secured. for many more years of air-sports and events for the local community.