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For over 80 years, Dublin airport has been a place of occasion and intrigue; a gateway to another land; a long-awaited return; a joyful reunion. It’s been a source of many historic moments, from transatlantic flights to VIP arrivals: and so, it was on Sunday 11th October 2020 Dublin Airport saw witness to another historic moment; a first in the annals of Irish Aviation, well, a first for a long time anyway!

At 9:03am, with little ceremony or audience, a set of wheels touched down on runway 28. Not arriving from distant lands, or with crowds of travellers, this small Sports Cruiser aircraft, a 2-seat aircraft weighing only 600kg, landed from Tandragee, Co Armagh. This was its first stop on an epic cross-border flight organised by an intrepid team in memory of a beloved daughter and friend.

Raphael and Liam departing from Cork
Raphael and Liam departing from Cork Airport

Landing in every commercial Airport in Ireland

Raphael O’Carroll from Tandragee and Liam Lynch from Belfast are no stranger to Irish Records: in May 2017 they became the first people in Irish aviation history to land an aircraft in all 32 counties in the one day. Now, they have taken it one step further: landing in every commercial airport in Ireland, a feat that it is believed has never been done before; and one only possible due to downturn in air traffic due to the current covid-19 pandemic.

This flight was a very special one: flown in memory of the pilot Raphael’s daughter, Christine, who sadly lost her battle with a Brain Tumour aged just 31. The flight was to raise funds in her memory, for the Christine O’Carroll Research Fund, helping to fund research into a cure for Brain Tumours, the leading cancer killer of young people under 40.

Raphael with his daughter Christine.
Raphael with his daughter Christine.

For the flight to take place on the day, it took months for a team of people to secure the necessary permissions, and because these aircraft fly by visual flight rules, there was a time delay waiting for a suitable weather window to allow this daring feat to happen.

Jaqui Lawerence works as an air traffic controller at Dublin but in her spare time, is a student of Raphael and Liam’s, learning to fly at their Microlight flight school at Kernan, Tandragee. With her extensive experience in the Dublin tower, Jacqui, who’s more used to dealing with Jumbo jets, worked with Raphael to develop the flight plan, sequencing and permissions to bring a light sport aircraft onto the main runway at Dublin as part of this record – a feat itself!

On the day, Jacqui was working tirelessly in the background from long before they made their 8am took off: tracking progress, monitoring the handover between each ATC sector, and coordinating each subsequent sector for their arrival, such that they could have unimpeded passage through Irish Airspace. On the day, the planning paid off, with their flight touching down first in Dublin, and subsequently routing around the coast via Waterford, Cork, and Kerry. After the briefest of covid-secure fuel stops in Kerry (for which the team there generously donated all costs to the charity), they were back on their way to Shannon, Ireland West (Knock), Sligo, Donegal and Derry, before the home stretch via Belfast International and City airports.

The route flown.

With over 6 hours and 45 minutes in the air, and 6 months to plan, this really was an historic event, and one that could not have taken place without the current downturn in air traffic due to covid-19.

Thanks

Raphael, Liam, Jacqui, and their team would also like to sincerely thank the IAA team; CEO Peter Kearney, Darren Pollard and Neil Branagan for their support made it possible to undertake this project; Kevin Conheady, Dave Allen and airside operations at Dublin Airport Authority; the team at Kerry for their hospitality and generosity; all the controllers from North to South, East to West, who were so accommodating in assisting with the flight; and NATS Belfast for their professionalism and generosity.

The Christine O’Carroll Research Fund and the Brain Tumour Charity

The Christine O’Carroll Research Fund supports research into Stage 4 Brain Tumours, the most serious type, with the lowest survival rates. The Brain Tumour Charity is the UK's largest dedicated brain tumour charity, committed to fighting brain tumours on all fronts.

They fund pioneering research to increase survival and improve treatment options and raise awareness of the symptoms and effects of brain tumours to get earlier diagnosis and to help families cope with everything that the diagnosis of a brain tumour brings. They also provide support for everyone affected so that they can live as full a life as possible, with the best quality of life.

The Charity funds and promotes the UK-wide HeadSmart campaign, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children and young people to make earlier diagnosis a reality. Earlier diagnosis will reduce long term disabilities and save lives. In just three years, HeadSmart has reduced average diagnosis time from 9.1 weeks to 6.5 weeks.

  • Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40
  • Over 11,700 people are diagnosed each year with a primary brain tumour 32 people every day
  • Almost 5,000 people lose their lives to a brain tumour each year
  • Thousands more are diagnosed with secondary brain tumours, which are not recorded
  • Brain tumours are the largest cause of preventable or treatable blindness in children
  • Brain tumours reduce life expectancy by on average 20 years – the highest of any
  • cancer
  • Just 11% of adults survive for five years after diagnosis
  • Childhood brain tumour survivors are 10 times more likely to suffer long term disability than well children. This accounts for 20,000 additional disabled life years for all the children who are diagnosed each year
  • Research offers the only real hope of dramatic improvements in the management and treatment of brain tumours. Over £500m is spent on cancer research in the UK every year, yet less than 3% is spent on brain tumours
You can check full details of their incredible journey at FLIGHT-AROUND-IRELAND
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