Major upgrade planned for Abbeyshrule

Abbeyshrule Airfield could potentially cater for 32-seater passenger aircraft and smaller cargo planes if new plans are given the go-ahead.

Abbeyshrule Airfield could potentially cater for 32-seater passenger aircraft and smaller cargo planes if new plans are given the go-ahead.

The Leader understands Longford Aviation Limited is at the final stages in the process of preparing an application to Longford County Council for permission to extend the current runway by 300 metres, as well as widening it by 18 to 23 metres. Planning permission will also be sought for a new taxiway, measuring just over a kilometre.

The move, if given the green light, will substantially alter the type of traffic able to use the facilities at Abbeyshrule. “These plans would eventually allow Abbeyshrule to become a Category two airport, which is the same, believe it or not, as London City Airport,” engineer on the project, John Madden told the Leader.

Longford Aviation Limited will be making an application to Longford Community Resources Limited’s LEADER funding to assist the project. “We’ve been working closely with the LCRL on the matter and they’ve been positive towards our plans,” Mr Madden said.

Tenders for the project have been invited on the public procurement website, etenders, as a LEADER funded project. “We have received substantial interest in the job, and we hope to analyse those in the coming weeks so that we could set a final price for the project,” he said.

“We’re under no illusions. This is not something that can happen today, or even in the next year, but it will allow us to get the bases established to develop the airport in such a positive manner,” the project engineer added.

Long standing committee member with Abbeyshrule Airport, Ted McGoey, said the plans were first and foremost about improving health and safety at the airport. “This would be a massive boost to the whole midlands region. It would allow the air corps to land more of their aircraft here, as well as increasing safety for the air ambulance service.”

The Irish Aviation Authority would be required to officially upgrade the status of the airport if the works go ahead, with the ability of larger passenger planes using the facilities likely to open the region to tourism.

“Sport tourism, in particular, could benefit hugely,” said Mr McGoey. “People coming into the region for fishing, for example, or those wanting to fly over for a sporting event in the UK could do so if the upgrade goes ahead.”

Abbeyshrule is currently on a high after the successes in the Tidy Towns and Entente Florale in recent weeks, and this move is likely to continue on that crest of a wave, he added.

“We’re looking at the big picture, but it’s about keeping the airport small while building on what we have,” John remarked.

“There has been talk about establishing a new airport at Horseleap because of the plans for a new Chinese hub in Athlone, but there’s no need to build one from scratch when we could utilise and upgrade what we have here,” Mr McGoey concluded.