Ireland’s largest and only free public air display will take place on Sunday July 24th 2011 at 3.30pm at Bray Seafront. Aeroplanes taking to the skies over Bray in the two hour air display will perform aerobatics, search and rescue demonstrations and drop parachutists into the air.
It’s all a long way from the first days of aviation in Ireland when Co. Wicklowman Richard Crosbie was the first Irishman to take to the skies.
On 19th January 1785, Crosbie ascended in a hot air balloon launched from Ranelagh Gardens, and landed on the other side of Dublin, on the North Strand. This was barely a year after the first aeronaut Pilatre de Rozier flew a balloon over Paris.
Richard Crosbie did it in style, The Annual Register reported at the time: “The balloon and chariot were beautifully painted, and the arms of Ireland emblazoned on them in superior elegance of taste. . . His aerial dress consisted of a robe of oiled silk, lined with white fur, his waistcoat and breeches in one, of white satin quilted, and morocco boots, and a montero cap of leopard skin.“
Less than 6 months after Crosbie’s inaugural flight, on 10th May 1785, Ireland was unfortunately the scene of the world’s first air disaster when a balloon flying over Tullamore in County Offaly collided with the chimney of the local barracks and started a chain of events that led to the complete burning of Tullamore town (then a mainly thatched settlement). The accidental-arsonist-balloonist was eventually forgiven and these days is celebrated through an annual balloon festival in the Co. Offaly town.
Air travel has progressed beyond the wildest dreams of Crosbie and his peers, in terms of both distance and passanger safety. But when we look to the skies to enjoy Bray’s Annual Air Display, spare a thought for Richard Crosbie and other early aviators, whose bravery set us on the path to what aviation has become.