Home Gallery About me Contact Copyright Links Updates




Base Visit Baldonnel AB,  22 September 2005

On September 21th, only two day after I returned from the Archangel Airshow in Greece, Remco Stalenhoef and I departed to Ireland. Remco arranged a base visit at Baldonnel AB, and since this is the main base of the Irish Air Corps, it was a huge change to see almost all the aircraft in their inventory. Around eight o'clock in the evening we took off in a B.737-800 with RyanAir. We had a very cheap ticket from Eindhoven Airport to Dublin and back, for only 50 euro's. When we arrived at Dublin we picked up a very small rental car (Nissan Micra) and drove to the Ibis Hotel west of Dublin.


The next morning we got up around eight o'clock and after a good breakfast we drove to Baldonnel AB (Irish: Baile Dhónaill) where we were expected at ten o'clock. Unfortunately we just missed two Alouette's which departed around this time. The weather had been very good the last couple of days here, but this day it was very unstable. So we first walked through all hangars to see the aircraft parked inside. Near the PC-9 hangar we stopped shortly to take some pictures and after that we visited the control tower.

After our visit to the control tower the weather got a little better and even the sun was shining. This was for us the moment to walk to the ramp to take some pictures of the aircraft parked out there. When the sun was gone again we visited the small base museum and the SF.260 storage hangar. During our three hour tour we saw more than forty Irish Air Corps aircraft. So our mission was accomplished! Many thanks go out the people at Baldonnel AB who made this al happen.  Go raibh míle maith agat!!   (Click here for a full log)


The history of the Irish Air Corps

The Irish Air Corps (Irish: Aer Chór na hÉireann) provides the air defense function of the Irish Defense Forces, in support of the Army and Naval Service, together with such other roles as may be assigned by the Government (e.g. Search and Rescue, Ministerial Air Transport Service). The principal airbase is Casement Aerodrome located at Baldonnel.


The origin of the Air Corps goes back to the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks of 1921, when a Martinsyde Type A Mark II biplane was purchased and put on 24-hour standby at Croydon airport. It became the first Irish military aircraft, arriving in June 1922. By the end of 1922 the Air Corps comprised ten aircraft (including 6 Bristol F2B fighters from the First World War), and about 400 men. During the 1930s funds were not plentiful, but in 1938 four Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters were delivered - a further eight were ordered but were embargoed by the outbreak of the Second World War. During World War II there is no record of Air Corps planes engaging any enemy aircraft, although dozens of escaped barrage balloons were shot down. 163 enemy aircraft force-landed in Ireland during the war, and in this way the Air Corps acquired a Lockheed Hudson, a Fairey Battle, and three Hawker Hurricanes. For a short time an order was given to Irish fighter pilots to use their aircraft to block the runways of airfields. They were then to use rifles and shoot at any invaders.


After the war, the Hurricanes were replaced by Supermarine Seafires and a few two-seat Spitfire trainers. The de Havilland Dove became the Corps' transport aircraft. The jet age arrived on 30 June 1956 when the Corps took delivery of a de Havilland Vampire T.55 trainer. In 1963 the Corps took delivery of its first helicopters, SA.316B Alouette IIIs, of which seven remained in service at the start of the 21st century. Lynn Garrison was responsible for coordinating the first demonstration of the Marchetti SF-260 Warrior at Baldonnel. As a result of this presentation the Corps acquired a number of Warriors which served for years. In the mid-1970s the expansion of the Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS) following Ireland's accession to the European Economic Community (now the European Union) led to the acquisition of the Corps' first business jet, a BAe 125-700. In 1975 several Fouga Magister CM-170 jet aircraft were purchased secondhand from France. They were used for training, for the Light Strike Squadron and for the Silver Swallows display team. They were withdrawn from service in 1998 and not replaced, leaving the Irish Air Corps without any jet combat aircraft.


As part of its obligations to the European Union, Ireland is responsible for patrolling 132,000 square miles (342,000 km²) of sea. In order to do this, the Air Corps employed three Beechcraft Super King Air 200 turboprop, later replaced by two CASA C235-100 maritime patrol aircraft. Two of the Super King Airs were disposed of and the third was allocated to the MATS. In its MATS role, following Ireland's assumption of the EU Presidency the Corps leased a Grumman Gulfstream III.  In more recent times, a Grumman Gulfstream IV has been acquired, in addition to a Learjet 45.


On March 18 2004 eight Pilatus PC-9M trainers were officially accepted by the Air Corps. On April 21 of that year the first three of the aircraft arrived. The Pilatus aircraft were the first Air Corps aircraft to break Air Corps tradition when the GOC (General Officer Commanding - a Brigadier General) decided to have the Pilatus tail numbers in the 260 series, when the most recent aircraft to be purchased (the Bombardier Learjet 45) had the tail number 258. This meant that the tail number 259 was skipped. In the near future two new Eurocopter EC135P2 Light Utility Helicopters and four Agusta/Westland AW139 Utility Helicopters will be delivered to the Irish Air Corps to replace the SA316B Alouette III and SA.365 Dauphin.





Copyright © 2005 by Rob Hendriks


All rights reserved