[Inisheer, Inishmaan, and Inishmore - I have done a single update for all three airfields and posted in each airfield entry.] We flew to these islands on 26 July 2013, (sorry for the delayed report: the airfields needed to be added to the UKGA database which, as you can see, they now are – many thanks).
We flew from Waterford, where we were based for a few days, to take the greyhounds for a walk on some new “sniffing” territory. We had a wonderful flight across quiet airspace with great help from both Waterford and Shannon, (we transited Shannon CTR), en-route.
The three airfields are managed by Aer Arann and you will need to request PPR at least three hours before arrival – easily done by phone. Arrivals and departures are only allowed when the airfield is open for Aer Arann flights which makes it a little restrictive if you plan to visit all three islands in one day as we did. (Opening hours in summer are 09.00 to 17.00 local). However, they were extremely helpful and the landing fee of 10 Euros plus free parking was very good value. Parking is noted as restricted, but in reality, unless there are lots of visitors in already, (unlikely), there is plenty of parking on the grass.
First airfield was Inisheer, (Irish: Inis Oírr). This is the smallest and most easterly of the three Aran islands. It has a 500 metre runway, (as they all do, give or take a few metres). There is a small terminal with loos, but that is all. You may well have seen Inisheer when it acted as a “body double” for Craggy Island in Father Ted. There are a few scattered houses and a shop nearby and, of all the islands, we found this the most charming of the three islands.
Next Island was Inishmaan, (Irish: Inis Meáin). The flight between the two islands was possibly the most unusual I have ever experienced. At 2.5NM apart, and with a westerly wind, take off (rotate) to landing (touch down) was 92 seconds! We never retracted the flaps from take-off and only achieved 300 feet altitude: the runways were virtually aligned. Thankfully, all the islands share the same A/G frequency, so no need to even change that. The airfield was very similar to Inisheer, and similar facilities with loos and little else. The habitation on this island is very sparse and we walked to a local pub for a cup of coffee and as this operated on Irish Island time, (very nice and very friendly, but not quick), we had to return to the airfield without any further exploration.
We finally flew to Inishmore, (Irish: Árainn Mhór or Inis Mór). At 3.2 NM apart, and with the runways not aligned, a crosswind left turn on departure became a right base join for Inishmore. This time we took a whole 3 minutes to fly between the two! Again, a friendly welcome and clean terminal with few facilities. Inishmore is the biggest of the Aran islands and we had a leisurely walk into Kilronan with shops and a couple of cafes. There was more to see and do here and it was more commercialised than the other two islands.
All in all, the three islands were one of the most enjoyable trips we have done. Being Ireland, flight plans are mandatory if a flight goes through controlled airspace, so we filed a flight plan for the flight to Inisheer and one back from Inishmore, but did not need them for the flights between the islands. No fuel is available at any of the islands, but Aer Arann operate from Connemara which had avgas available if needed. With a total flight time from Waterford and all the islands at only 2hr 30mins, this was not an issue.
I love island airfields – we have visited most of the Scottish Western Isles airfields and the Aran islands are very similar to Coll and Collonsay in the Western Isles. I would recommend a visit if you get the chance. The Irish countryside is outstandingly beautiful; the ATC is friendly and professional; the airspace is virtually empty and everyone we met was as friendly as the clichés suggest!
PPR and full details of the airfields are available from Aer Arann: http://www.aerarannislands.ie/index.php/aerodrome-sop-s
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