Iona National Airways

Iona National Airways

Iona National Airways was an Irish airline, based at Kildonan Aerodrome and Collinstown Dublin between 1931 and 1995.

Early Beginnings

When Hugh Cahill started an aviation wing of his motor company - Iona - at Cross Guns Bridge in Dublin in 1931, he was already well known as a Dublin entrepreneur. Initially the Irish Government did not back the proposal for a civil aerodrome, and refused to allow Cahill a license. It was not until after a few months in operation, when Iona National Airways flights became frequent and after Baldonnel was no longer seen as a location for civil aviation, that the license was granted.

Cahill's chosen site for the aerodrome, was at Kildonan House near Finglas in Dublin. The site was about 3 miles from his garage, making it easy to service aircraft back at base, at Cross Guns Bridge. Iona National Airways, operated out of Kildonan for two years until mid 1933, when Cahill's attentions were re-focused on his motor business. Despite this, two other airlines were to operate from Kildonan, including Dublin Air Ferries (DAF), which was run and owned by the noted aviator Lady Mary Heath and her husband, Jack Williams.

Returning To The Air

In 1955 Pearse Cahill, Hugh Cahill's son, recognised an opportunity in the Irish Aviation market (Ireland had no major flying club, and no major secondary airline). Aer Lingus was also struggling to survive in the economic recessions of Ireland (which allowed for other enterprises to develop). Pearse did not rush into creating a modern airline, possibly because the money he received from his father to do other things (especially not to fly) may not have been enough to buy larger aircraft. Nonetheless, Pearse bought and shipped in three ex-RAF DH Chipmunk aircraft into Ireland. This was to restart the Irish Aero Club, rivaling activities at nearby Weston airfield. Soon afterwards, Pearse realised that he could make aviation in Ireland profitable for Iona, and he imported aircraft for flying clubs around the country, firmly establishing the country with companies such as Cessna and Piper, as well as handling the majority of engine overhauls at Dublin Airport.

Iona flourished; media reporters would rent out Iona aircraft for air-to-ground photographs, and for media reports. Iona was on the front line, even the ever-upsetting images of the Stardust Disco tragedy from the air, which have never been forgotten, and have been immortalised in the recent Irish Independent "100 Years Of" magazine; were taken from an Iona aircraft. Iona had earned a place in Irish hearts and in the late seventies, Iona delivered Cessna 172's to the Irish Air Corps, several of which are still flying today. Throughout the early eighties Iona served the market with international air ambulances, regional services and flight training.

Decline and liquidation

By the early 1990s, Iona had suffered economical problems. It was further impacted the decision of Federal Express and DHL to end services to Ireland. Other problems to be faced by Iona included issues with several statutory governing bodies.Fact|date=April 2008 Iona may have had an opportunity to restructure,Fact|date=April 2008 but political conditions were unfavourable.Fact|date=April 2008 These factors led to the liquidation of Iona National Airways Limited, in 1995, having flown the last flight on 14th December 1994.

After effects

Ryanair, Loganair and Aer Arann eventually took over most of the Iona passenger routes, and today, Air Contractors are one of Europe's biggest cargo carriers to operate some of their old routes. To the Irish flying community however, the main loss was the relatively inexpensive and open flying and flight training option provided. Iona had entertained enthusiasts at their facilities, as well as supported a non-commercial aviation infrastructure with Fly-ins, open days, aviation events, and flying club. These outlets were not replaced.Fact|date=April 2008


* [ Iona – Ireland’s First Commercial Airline]
* [ The Iona Story] Book website
* "The Silver Lining" (By John Haughton)

External links

* [ Iona Airways]

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