COMMERCIAL sea plane flights between Dublin and the mid-west were given official approval yesterday.
Mountshannon on Lough Derg was designated a base for sea plane traffic by the Irish Aviation Authority.
The last scheduled sea plane flight in this country took off from Foynes in 1945 and was piloted by Captain Charles Blair, the husband of actress Maureen O’Hara.
Chartered sea planes operated from Foynes until October 1949.
Yesterday, Harbour Flights secured a licence to operate a service.
Emelyn Heapes, its chief executive, said it will seek licences for sea plane flights between Dublin Bay, Galway, Limerick, Foynes and Cobh, Co Cork.
"We want to connect Ireland and give a better way to travel around this country much quicker for tourists and business people alike."
Mr Heapes said the plan was to operate between Dublin and the docks in Galway.
"Harbour Flights eliminates all airport congestion, security and all the delay and waits. It’s a simple way of transportation. It is nothing new. Foynes led the way in the world in flying boats in the 1940s."
Mr Heapes said they have several aircraft including a 19-seater. The longest flight they plan would involve a journey from Dublin to the Aran Islands and take about 40 minutes.
Mr Heapes said costs would vary from €50 to €160 one way, depending on the route.
Margaret O’Shaughnessy, of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, said the return of sea planes providing a commercial service to Foynes would present a tremendous tourism opportunity as visitors could enjoy the experience of flying in a sea plane with a visit to the museum.
She said Harbour Flights had been given planning permission to fly into Foynes.
"We now expect them to proceed immediately to apply for the necessary licence to operate flights in and out of Foynes having been given the licence for Mountshannon.
"This is huge news for us, given our history with sea planes and the museum. I am just back from a promotion visit to the US and we got a fantastic response. The fact that we will now be able to offer flights on sea planes will just be mega for Foynes and tourism in the wider region."
A Limerick boat club has objected to Harbour Flights getting planning to land near the Shannon bridge, claiming it would present a danger to oars-people using that stretch of the river. That matter is with An Bord Pleanála.