Pictured at the Aviation Gallery opening at Shannon Airport were Mary Considine, CEO The Shannon Airport Group with Mike Kelly and his grandson Ollie Kenny (5). Photograph: Arthur Ellis

SHANNON AIRPORT unveiled the second instalment of a permanent exhibition containing the world’s largest collection of diecast model aircraft on Tuesday morning.

Members of the general public can now marvel at the exhibition located in the airport terminal building which offers a captivating journey through the evolution of aviation, showcasing an unparalleled collection, meticulously amassed over many years by Michael ‘Mike’ Kelly. The first installation opened in 2018 and houses over 1,500 model aircraft in the Departures Lounge.

950 model aircraft from every corner of the world dating back to the 1930s are included in the new exhibition. Among the impressive models on display are the full collection of Concordes, a complete fleet of VC 10’s, the legendary Sunderland aircraft once owned by Al Capone, and the Super Trailer Limited, the oldest aircraft replicated in the collection.

In addition, the gallery also features the full collection of Ryanair and Aer Lingus aircraft, alongside the iconic Antonov 225 carrying the space shuttle – a testament to Shannon Airport’s historic designation as an alternate landing strip for the US Space Shuttle, thanks to its long runway.

CEO of the Shannon Airport Group, Mary Considine spoke of how Shannon was an “airport synonymous with breaking new frontiers” while referencing it being the first transatlantic gateway to Europe, the birthplace of the Duty Free, “we see boundaries as opportunities”. On the new collection, she remarked, “the magic of these aircraft and large metal plane is that it tells the story of young boy looking up at the sky and wanting to pull back the skies to see the aircraft”.

Pictured at the Aviation Gallery opening at Shannon Airport were Mary Considine, CEO The Shannon Airport Group with Mike Kelly. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

She recalled how when Mike began collecting that he attracted the attention of Customs officials in Shannon who noticed he would leave with an empty suitcase and return back a day or so later with it full. “One day he was pulled aside by Customs, he didn’t realise they were suspicious of him and he proceeded to tell them about the history of every single plane, needless to say he wasn’t stopped again”. Mary paid tribute to Shannon Airport staff members Niall Kearns, Joe Baker, Maurice Fitzgerald and Claire Corry along with former colleagues Niall Moloney and John Francis for giving the exhibition a permanent home in Shannon.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Farranshone native Mike admitted it was a fantastic feeling to see the exhibition expand. I’m delighted that the journey is done, I can sit back and enjoy it a little. I’ve an empty house now. It’s over, that journey is over”. Phase two is a more international collection and according to the curator, “It is as good as you’re going to get anywhere”.

Since the 1950s Mike has shared his love for Shannon Airport with the extraordinary collection. He is one of Shannon’s greatest ambassadors and often visits the Airport to clean the diecast models, such occasions are a real treat for passengers who are then treated to wonderful tales on the story behind each model if they happen to get into conversation with the 72 year old. “A lot of the people say the gallery is nothing without me but it is going to happen in another short time, going forward hopefully Niall Kearns will bring along a young man like yourself who will be working in the Airport and get to know the gallery and bring it forward again”. He suggested the addition of small placards in the exhibitions can help to remember the stories forevermore.

On his right hand is a VC10 tattoo which was one of only two airliners to use a rear-engined quad layout. “A young lady was upstairs, when I say a young lady she was in her fifties, she spotted the VC10 tattoo on my hand and was surprised a lady of her age knew it was because it was flying in 1964, her Dad happened to be the training captain in Shannon Airport so with that she bought the book ‘Pulling Back the Clouds’ for me to sign and say a couple of lovely words to her Dad who is his nineties now, I told him he was my hero which he was and to my amazement I got a note back from him which I have in the gallery, he was amazed I had so much interest in the VC10 when I was a young fella. He finished by saying ‘one of my flight engineers on the VC10 his name was Mike Kelly’ and he ended up as the S47 training captain for British Airways. To me it was something that started in 1964 and is still going on, that bowled me over”.

“I would say I’ve thousands of examples of such stories. These are all limited edition, some of them are pure museum pieces so it is a very valuable collection going forward for the Airport, hopefully it will be well minded and protected. Aviation is changing so much, this aviation is nearly dead and gone”.

He concluded, “Shannon Airport holds a special place in my heart. As a young boy, watching planes take off and land ignited my fascination with aviation, and that passion has never waned. I am incredibly grateful to Shannon Airport for helping me share this extraordinary collection with the world. Many of these model aircraft are extremely rare and hold a wealth of history and significance. It is a dream come true to see them on display here at Shannon Airport”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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