The aeronautical milestone for Irish aviation was marked by a gathering at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Foley in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
The event was attended by a number of Aer Lingus employees who crewed the airline’s first planes to fly from Ireland to the U.S. eastern seaboard in late April 1958.
The first flight from Dublin to New York was by a four-engine turboprop Lockheed Constellation.
Jet service was still a few sky miles down the runway at the time.
The Echo reported on the first landing by the Aer Linte (an earlier form of the Aer Lingus name) “Super Conny” at New York’s Idlewild Airport.
The front-page headline was a banner one: “Irish Air Service to New York in Inaugurated – First Plane Here,” it said.
The paper reported that New York mayor Robert Wagner and then tanaiste Sean Lemass were the main dignitaries on the first flight.
Wagner had spent several days in Ireland before the flight and managed a round of golf at the famed Portmarnock course in Dublin.
The plane that flew the 3,000 miles across the ocean was named. Not surprisingly, Saint Patrick.
Ireland’s Consul General in New York at the time, John Conway, predicted future success for the service.
“There was a large crowd at Idelwild Airport when the plane reached here on Tuesday morning, the May 3 issue of the Echo reported.
“Many representatives of Irish societies and city officials were on hand to greet the plane and the Aer Linte guests. There was a cheer when the plane landed and hearty congratulations extended to the Irish party,” the report, which did not carry a byline, added.
It paid to be a guest on the fist flight – big time. Airfares at the end of the 1950s were proportionally far higher in relation to average income than they are today,
The economy fare for those first transatlantic flights was $425.60 return. Even the sixty cents was nothing to be sneezed at.
Then again, flying long distance in the late 1950s, the zenith of the cocktail age, was a high-flying experience.
A few years after the first flight Aer Lingus began flying Boeing jet aircraft, both 707s and its variant, the 720. The 1970s saw the introduction of 747 jumbo jets while today the airline’s much expended service to the U.S. east and west coasts uses Airbus A330s.
“In so many ways our services have mirrored the changes in Ireland over the past 50 years. People used to say that in the U.S. they had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Stevie Wonder while here in Ireland we had no cash, no hope and it was no wonder. That situation has now changed thankfully,” Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion said at the 50th anniversary celebratory gathering.