Dublin Airport display celebrates 75 years of civil aviation

Photographic exhibitions commemorate early days of flights from Dublin


Nostalgia will be in the air – and on the ground – as Dublin Airport celebrates its 75th birthday on Monday. Music from the 1940s and 1950s will be played in both Terminal One and Terminal Two as a series of photographic exhibitions recall the pioneering age of civil aviation.

The fledgling airline Aer Lingus had begun operations at Baldonnel in 1936 but it was decided to transfer to a new civil airport to be built at Collinstown near Swords, using an old British military airfield which had been derelict since 1922.

Photographs depict the laying of turf to restore the grass landing strip in about 1936, and the airport opened for business on January 19th, 1940. An Aer Lingus Lockheed 14 aircraft took off from close to the passenger terminal, which was still being built at that time.

Britain being at war meant the first scheduled service to London began in November 1945, with a 2½-hour direct flight to Croydon Airport. Airmail services were added in 1946.

The terminal building had been designed in the 1930s by architect Desmond FitzGerald. With its tiered viewing galleries and curved ends, it was reminiscent of an ocean liner, a popular theme of airports at the time. The ship theme was repeated to some extent in Terminal Two, in 2010, with its silver hulls reminiscent of a catamaran through which the airport road now passes.

The exhibition depicts the heady days of expansion as the first Aer Lingus Viscount 707 came into service in 1954. With flying still the glamorous preserve of the wealthy, the airport became something of a destination in itself.

Visitors would come out from Dublin and photographs of guided tours – families sitting on unsecured seating on a luggage trolly being pulled around the landing strip, are also included. In the 1960s, car parking became regulated but until that time, as the photographs show, it was still possible to drive up to the terminal and leave your car a few feet from the entrance.

By 1963, annual passenger numbers exceeded one million and a north terminal was added. What we now know as Terminal One opened in 1989 and still uses part of FitzGerald’s original terminal for boarding gates.

Passenger numbers reached 23.5 million in 2010 and Terminal Two opened for business.

Dublin Airport’s managing director, Vincent Harrison, said more than 435 million passenger journeys had taken place in 75 years at the airport, “boosting Irish trade, tourism and investment and bringing together generations of families and friends”.