Festival of Flight in memory of R116 crew

Festival of Flight in memory of R116 crew

9 August 2017

IT was late, but it was worth waiting for. Saturday’s Festival of Flight in Newcastle was dedicated to the memory of the four crew members of the Irish Coastguard helicopter, R116, who died off Mayo in March. 

As a mark of respect, the new R116 from Dublin was to open the air show at 2.30pm but mechanical problems meant it was unable to leave its base.

The Festival went ahead and at the end the air show was wrapped up by another Irish Coastguard helicopter, R118, from Sligo, who performed a fly past much to the delight of thousands of spectators to stayed behind to witness the poignant tribute.

As spectators applauded loudly or waved at the helicopter, a lone crew member stood at the door and waved back before the aircraft performed a few manoeuvres above Newcastle lifeboat and left for home.

In the Slieve Donard Hotel the fly past was watched by around 15 members of the families of the dead crew members — captain Dara Fitzpatrick, captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winch man Ciaran Smyth — who were in Newcastle as guests of Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

The council decided earlier this year that because of the contribution made by R116 to the Festival of Flight over the years and the enormous contribution the helicopter and its crew had made to rescue operations in the Mournes and around the coast, that the air show would be in memory of the crew members who died.

As part of that, the council invited members of the families to Newcastle where they attended the opening ceremony in the Slieve Donard Hotel, visited the aviation village in Castle Park and watched the air show from the balcony in the hotel.

The families also met members of the various emergency services in the area who regularly work with the Irish Coastguard helicopters.

The Festival of Flight was judged a huge success by the council and is believed to have attracted one of the largest crowds ever in the history of the event.

In addition to the air show, several hundred Harley Davidsons performed two ride throughs of the town — on Friday evening and Saturday morning — and thousands of people visited the aviation village in Castle Park. A life-size Tornado fighter was also very popular on the green on Downs Road.

The emergency services dealt with only a handful of minor incidents, including two people who suffered head injuries in falls and three lost children.