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Aer Lingus celebrated 75 years of flying in 2011


2011 was a very special year for Aer Lingus as it marked the airline’s 75th anniversary. Since the early days of 1936, Aer Lingus has grown to become a flag carrier with a worldwide reputation for friendly staff, a high quality of service, value for money and innovation. Throughout the 75 years, Aer Lingus has carried out its mission of connecting Ireland with the world, transporting millions of customers annually. We look forward to continuing to fly the shamrock for the next 75 years.

A 'Retro' addition to the Aer Lingus Fleet

As part of the anniversary celebrations in 2011, Aer Lingus welcomed the arrival of a new Airbus A320 to its fleet. The aircraft, named St. Coleman was painted in the old Aer Lingus ‘Irish International’ livery from the 1960s. The aircraft was unveiled at a ceremony at the iconic ‘Old Central Terminal’ Building at Dublin Airport, designed in the 1960s by Desmond FitzGerald, brother of the late Garret FitzGerald, former Taoiseach. Former to his political career, Dr. FitzGerald was Head of Economic Planning at Aer Lingus. St. Coleman began service on Sunday 27th March 2011, operating on the short-haul network between Ireland and Europe and remains part of the current Aer Lingus fleet.

"St. Coleman"

All Aer Lingus aircraft are traditionally named after Saints. The decision to do so began in 1946, following discussions on how best to project an Irish image to the world. The first annual blessing of the Aer Lingus fleet took place on 23rd July 1947. The ceremony was performed by Rev. W. Kenry, C.C., of Swords, Co Dublin.


The Original "Iolar"

The first Aer Lingus aircraft, DH84 Dragon EI-ABI named “Iolar” (Eagle) was delivered to the newly formed airline from Blackpool and West Coast Air Services in 1936.

On May 27th of that year, the first Aer Lingus flight from Dublin (Baldonnel Military Aerodrome) to Bristol was operated by the Iolar, then the only plane in the Aer Lingus fleet. When the second Aer Lingus plane, a DH86A, went into operation in September of the same year, the Iolar was switched to the Dublin-Liverpool route. It also operated seasonal services to the Isle of Man.

The original Iolar was sold in February 1938 to Olley Air Services and was re-registered G-ACPY. It flew in the livery of one of Olley’s many companies, Great Western and Southern Airlines and operated a service between Lands End and the Scilly Isles. At the outbreak of war, Great Western and Southern lost most of its aircraft to the Air Ministry for use in France, but the faithful Dragon was retained to operate the Lands End-Scilly Isles route. It was a unique service in that it was the only internal air route to be operated in England during the war. When a large number of military personnel needed to be flown to the Scillies, the Dragon flew as many as ten services a day.

On June 3rd, 1941, while flying from the Scillies to Lands End, the Dragon disappeared without trace. It is assumed that it was shot down into the sea by German JU88s which were active in the area at the time.


The New "Iolar"


The DH Dragon, now restored with loving care by Aer Lingus engineers at Dublin Airport, is a sister ship of the original Iolar.

It was built in Hatfield, England, in 1936 and was test flown by the great Geoffrey de Havilland himself on April 18th of that year. Originally registered G-AECZ, it was flown by Western Airways and Scottish Airways until it was impressed into the RAF’s 110 (Anti-Aircraft Co-operation) Wing in May 1940. It was badly damaged in a crash at Castle Bromwich in late 1940. Repairs were completed in 1942 and it was returned to the RAF. It was sold to Air Taxis at Croyden in March 1946 and to Wiltshire School of Flying in 1948.

It came to Ireland in March 1950, registered EI-AFK, when it was sold to Mr. J. Cleary of Mullingar. Five months later it went to Captain Darby Kennedy of Weston Aerodrome near Dublin and was used for light charter work and pleasure flying. It was withdrawn from service in March 1966.

In the following year the Dragon was purchased by Aer Lingus, painted in the colours of the original Iolar and flown to Dublin Airport by Captain Kennedy on 1st September 1967.

In 1971 the aircraft escorted the first Aer Lingus jumbo jet along the taxi-ways at Dublin Airport when it landed after its delivery flight. It was subsequently displayed at an aeronautical exhibition in the Departures Hall at the airport during the airline’s 50th Anniversary in 1986.

The Flight of the Iolar


To mark the historic 75th Anniversary year, the Iolar underwent a restoration project which was carried out on a voluntary basis by a dedicated group of Aer Lingus engineers. Iolar was once again made airworthy and ready to take part in anniversary celebrations and commemorative events. On May 27th 2011, the Iolar took to the skies once again. Aer Lingus invited guests, including An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D. to take part in a number of special commemorative flights onboard the Iolar.

Departing from the old North Terminal at Dublin, and reaching about 2,000 feet, each 20 minute flight tracked along the north Dublin coast as far as Rush and Skerries, before turning back for Dublin Airport. It was a memorable day and thoroughly enjoyed by those who got to sample a piece of Aer Lingus history.

Since then, the newly restored Iolar has continued to fly proudly throughout Ireland and the UK. In 2011, it participated at Bray, Portrush and Duxford Airshows, to name but a few and is now in preparation for a very active 2012 season.

Commemorative event at Dublin Airport

A special commemorative event took place in Hangar 6, Dublin Airport for Aer Lingus employees and their families. The event served to acknowledge employees, past and present for their contribution to Aer Lingus over the past 75 years and to bring a sense of fun and pride as they shared the milestone together with their colleagues. The day entailed family-orientated activities, a nostalgic look back at the airline’s history through the use of a unique archive exhibition and fly-by air show. The Iolar aircraft was positioned as the centrepiece on the Apron at Hangar 6 for the event, perfectly placed for photo opportunities throughout the day. It also took part in the Flypast that evening at 7.36pm (1936) to mark the first flight 75 years ago. This was the first time that an aerobatic display, flypast and vintage aircraft show took place in Dublin Airport. A static display showcased over 50 vintage aircraft.

Aer Lingus Exhibition

An exhibition was created to bring the rich heritage of Aer Lingus to life in a contemporary setting, showcasing memorabilia in an educated and engaging way – 75 years in travel, photography, film, fashion and music – including Aer Lingus in 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and noughties. An entire wall of the Archive was dedicated to the Iolar project and a model replica of the Iolar took pride of place as the centrepiece of the showcase. The exhibition formed a key part of anniversary events.


Cabin crew uniforms throughout the decades…


The airline's first cabin crew, or air hostesses as they were known in 1945, were dressed by acclaimed designer Sybil Connolly of Pimms, in a military-style rich brown suit, a calf-length skirt, long blazer and hat.

The 1963 uniform was designed by Neillí Mulcahy, one of Ireland’s leading fashion designers in the 1950s and 1960s. The design featured a three piece navy blue and green check uniform, made from Magee Donegal tweed. This uniform also introduced the first Aer Lingus handbag, which was navy and matched the gloves.

The 1966 uniform was again designed by Irene Gilbert and saw the return to a green suit with and lemon blouse, this time featuring the mini-skirt style of the time, and a Jackie Kennedy-style pillbox hat, worn with navy gloves.

In 1970, the uniform was re-drawn again, with a green pinafore dress and peaked cap by Digby Morton.

The next two designs, introduced in 1975 and 1986 were both created by Ib Jorgensen. A scarf was included for the first time, and both uniforms also featured a hat (a flat cap in 1975, followed by a navy velvet beret in 1986).

Paul Costello designed two uniforms in a summer and winter version, which were introduced in 1989 and 1990 respectively, which paired a straight navy jacket with a green and blue striped skirt.

1998 saw the latest change of uniform, to the current design by Louise Kennedy.


Aer Lingus – the award winning airline

Aer Lingus is renowned for its high level of customer service and professionalism. In recognition of this, the airline has received numerous accolades throughout the years.

2011 saw Aer Lingus collect twelve awards. The airline won first place for ‘Best Airline to Europe’, retaining the title for the third successive year, at the Irish Travel Trade Awards.

It also received two awards at the Irish Travel Industry Awards 2011, being named ‘Best Short Haul Airline’ (for flights less than 3 hours), and ‘Best Medium Haul Airline’ (for flights between 3 and 8 hours).

In 2010, Aer Lingus was rated in the top two European carriers out of 18 airlines in a customer airline satisfaction survey by consumer watchdog website,

Aer Lingus is constantly looking for new, innovative ways to improve customer experience. The new 'Sky Deli' menu including delicious, healthy options is now available on all UK and European flights. For a small fee, customers can enjoy the peace and quiet of brand new lounges at Dublin and Heathrow Airports. The Aer Lingus App allows customers to access flight information and check in for their flight on the go. A designated new family check-in area is available at Terminal 2, Dublin Airport which allows those travelling with small children and infants to check in quickly and seamlessly. Just some of the ways Aer Lingus takes care of you.

Should you require more information about the 75th anniversary of Aer Lingus, or high-res images, please contact the Aer Lingus Media & PR Department: Email: or






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