A few days ago I received a copy of the Aviators Guide to Ireland. It’s a marvelous 400-page guidebook that includes detailed photos and information about 210 airstrips in Ireland. Even if you think it’s a long shot that you’ll ever fly a plane in Ireland, you'll want to get a copy of this book and dream about flying around the Emerald Isle. If you do nothing else, you'll want to watch this YouTube video of flying in Ireland.
I love airport guidebooks. Years ago, I bought a copy of Fly Idaho! A guide to Adventure in the Idaho Backcountry, and I enjoyed perusing it while dreaming of future trips to Idaho that I have yet to make. At some point I lent it to someone who I’ve long since forgotten and who seems to have forgotten the book is mine! But I digress.
While you’ve certainly heard that the cost of flying in Europe is outrageous, Ireland is a notable exception, where you can visit most of the 210 airports without paying a landing fee. Their secret? Most of these Irish airports are privately owned grass strips maintained by farmers and other aviation enthusiasts. Visitors are welcome at most of the airstrips, though in some cases a prior notification by telephone is requested.
The photography is the most detailed I’ve ever seen in an airport guidebook. Typically, there are three large color, aerial photographs for each airport. A full-page photo gives a north up view of the airport. On the opposite page, two photos show the airport and surrounding terrain as viewed from the approach end of each runway. A table lists a wealth of data including frequencies, landing fees, contact phone numbers, runway data and facility information.
I was lucky to visit Ireland in 2010 and fly with William Flood, one of the co-authors who surveyed and photographed each of the airstrips. It was a remarkable period in Irish General Aviation history when an unpronounceable volcano in far away Iceland closed Dublin airport to airliners for days on end. On one of these days we flew in William’s Cessna 180 over downtown Dublin, an area that on normal days is totally off limits to small planes. We also landed at a couple of grass strips and visited the pilots who lived there.
William also owns one of the six seaplanes in Ireland, a Cub on floats. On another day, William took me flying for an hour in the Cub and we did “splash and dashes” on four or five lakes in the area. Ireland was described to me as a saucer, flat in the middle but surrounded by mountains. The flatlands are littered with lakes and we had great fun checking them out.
If there’s a general aviation oasis in Europe, it must be Ireland and I encourage you to visit. Get the Aviators Guide to Ireland now, so you’ll have plenty incentive to motivate you to make the trip. If you’re as lucky as I was, a far off volcano will force you to stay for a few extra days. Regardless, the Emerald Isle and its pilots are bound to leave a lasting impression!