Irish Air Corps, 1916 Easter Rising centenary flypasts
The Irish Air Corps (IAC) formed in 1922 and is based at Casement Aerodrome outside Dublin at Baldonnel and is the air component of the Permanent Defence Forces of Ireland.
The IAC has a primary role of supporting the Irish Army, Navy and protection of Irish airspace. Currently they have 27 aircraft on strength comprising 17 fixed wing and 10 rotary and approximately 750 personnel on strength.In recent years there has been a drive to upgrade and reequip the IAC with modern aircraft to make it a much more capable force.
The IAC is split into 4 Wings, 1 and 3 Operations Wing and 4 and 5 Support Wing.
1 Operations Wing operate the fixed wing assets of 7 PC-9M, 2 Casa 235, 5 Cessna FH172H Rockets , a Lear 45 and a Pilatus Britten Norman Defender which is flown on behalf of the Garda Air Support Unit.
3 Operations Wing operate the rotary assets of 6 AW139, 2 EC135 P2 and 2 EC135 T2 which as the Defender are flown on behalf of the Garda Air Support Unit.
4 Wing carry out all second line maintenance as well as fuel management.
5 Wing carry out logistic and administration including air traffic control and crash rescue services.
There are two additional units within the IAC the CIS Squadron which deals with communications, navigation and information technology equipment and systems required by the Air Corps and the Air Corps Collage which is the main training unit within the Air Corps.
We were very privileged to be invited by the Air Corps to witness their contribution to the Centenary Anniversary celebrations held over the Easter weekend of the 27th and 28th March. We made two visits to Casement , one on the 15th March for the practice/dress rehearsal and the other on the 28th March for the Easter Monday portion of the celebrations.
The two days went very much the same with some minor variations, on the practice day first to launch where the Casa 235 and Lear 45 call sign “Condor”, next where 3 AW139 lead by an EC135 call sign “Raven”, this was followed by 6 PC-9M call sign “Eagle” last to go where 3 FH-172H using the call sign “Hawkeye” .
The rehearsals took place over the Curragh training ground well away from prying eyes and ourselves as the IAC where keen to keep the fact that the PC-9Ms had recently fitted with a smoke generating system, a bit of a surprise for the main Easter Sunday parade. We only noticed the smoke system was active when the PC-9Ms returned with green and orange staining and where quickly surrounded by cleaning teams to be washed down.
The maim flypast took place on Easter Sunday over Dublin City centre on a very blustery day the formations looked very polished particularly, when Condor and Eagle joined to fly an eight ship flypast of Lear 45 in the lead Casa 235 behind flanked by three PC-9M each side trailing smoke.
On the 28th the formations did flypasts over several Irish town and cities, the Lear did not fly so the Casa flew as a single ship. The “Raven” formation consisted of EC135 and now four AW139. “Hawkeye” was now up to four FH-172H and “Eagle” formation was now up to all seven PC-9M operational .On return all the formations did flypasts with the PC-9M formation performing a very personal show of several formation passes for the few of us on base and the maintenance crews, who had worked so hard to put all seven PC-9M in the air, it was first for the IAC to put up a seven ship. A fabulous maximum effort from all the IAC ground crews to get so many aircraft serviceable and available for a historic few days.
On return we chatted to the aircrew and maintenance guys who where justifiably proud of the work, effort and professionalism shown by the whole Irish Air Corps team.
The planning for the Easter Celebrations took some five years with the Air Corps playing a major roll not just in the air but also within the planning, security and various ground rolls.
Thanks must go Captain Sean McCarthy and Sergeant Jimmy Hales for their help and cooperation in preparation of this article particularly Jimmy who looked after us on both days.