Weston Aerodrome has a great history it began its life as an airport in 1937 under Captain Darby Kennedy. From 1946; he operated commercial flights from Weston to the UK until the late 1950’s. Throughout the years Weston continued to operate as a flight school.
Weston also has its place in Irish film making, it was the base for the aerial combat scenes for the WWI film The Blue Max which starred George Preppard in 1965. It was used again in 1971 for the making of Von Richthofen and Brown also known as The Red Baron, a film directed by Roger Corman the film was struck by tragedy when on September 15, Charles Boddington, an experienced pilot who had also worked on both The Blue Max and Darling Lili, was killed when his SE-5 plane spun during a low-level manoeuvre over the airfield and crashed.
Craftsmen building a mock up plane on ‘Von Richthofen and Brown’ film at Weston 1971, copyright Tom Dowling
The airport was upgrade from a grass runway in the 80’s when a tarmac runway was laid. In 2001, Captain Darby Kennedy by then retired to Spain sold Weston, to Mr. Jim Mansfield, owner of the Citywest Complex for a reported €4.5 million. Under Mansfiled ownership he developed new hangers, a new control tower, and restaurant acquired more land and extended the runway, falling foul of both local residents and the planning authorities on a number of occasions and ending up in the High Court.
About the time of the purchase of Weston by Mansfield a group of residents opposed to any development of the airport was formed called the Combined Action Against Weston’ (CAAW) from the nearby exclusive Weston estate built in the early 90’s more than 40 years after the airport first opened. Planning irregularities in West Dublin are well documented from the 70’ through to the early 90’s. Resident raised issues about their homes being under threat from low flying craft which quickly attracted the populist politicians who despite the fact that Weston had been beneficial to the community for 50 years, the lure of shoring up their vote took precedence. Never once did any of them point out the economic value of the airport to the area or the fact that their homes should never been granted permission so close to the runway or that residents knowingly bought their houses at the end of a runway.
In 2011 following the economic crash Jim Mansfield, lost control of the airport to the National Asset Management Agency and it was put up for sale. In most countries it would be seen as a vital asset and new business could generate new jobs, but in advance of the sale a new crop of elected representative’s again with one eye the local votes cautioned NAMA on the sale, one even suggested that it should be turned back into green space. This was bizarre given the precarious state of the lands at Liffey Valley, and their failure to put it beyond the risk of development despite pleas from locals for 20 years.
In May of 2012 an unknown British investor purchases Weston Executive Airport for more than the €3 million asking price by NAMA.
Weston Airport under its new owners offers a great opportunity to bring greater economic benefits to Lucan, if the airport is allowed develop albeit with proper planning controls. Poor planning, lack of enforcement, the “not in my back yard” syndrome“: aided by public representative’s endorsement, has no place in Ireland of 2012.
The flight school continues to do well despite the downturn and more business can be generated through landing corporate jets and parking fees one of Ireland’s greatest sporting stars Padraig Harringtom houses his jet there. It’s surely possible to develop corporate air traffic, creating employment and revenue boost for Lucan alongside its residents without discommoding anyone, It happens in other countries why not In Ireland.
People in general have a natural fascination with aviation and to me there is something very enjoyable about going up to Weston and watching planes coming and going. A few weeks ago I spotted two De Havilland Chipmunks from the 1950’s (picture below) doing a formation flyover at Weston and drove in to get a look as they landed. Both painted in the Aer Corps colours I found out they were taking part in the Bray Airshow the following weekend. For me moments like that create a certain magic, long may Weston continue to do that.
© Tom Dowling 2012 images by Tom Dowling