Sky over Wicklow to be filled with three Chipmunks and a Dragon

Bray Air Display includes planes used as basic trainer for Irish Air Corp for decades

There is more technology in what you are using to read this article than there is in a 1951 De Havilland Chipmunk airplane.

Even if you are reading this printed on paper.

The 65-year-old two-seater is noisy, cramped, and shakes like a scolded puppy, but that description does the first new aircraft the Irish State ever bought an enormous disservice.

It is also a beautiful and graceful piece of working art.


There is no point in looking for an auto-pilot button. In fact, there’s no point in looking for any button - this plane is operated almost exclusively using levers, which test the synchronizing ability of the pilot like a Cathedral organ player.

"It is very easy to fly, but very difficult to fly well," says Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF) display pilot Alan Murphy. "It is a pilot's aircraft. You have to fly it accurately to get the most out of it. It doesn't have a huge amount of power – having a 145hp engine (about the same as a modern compact car).

“Its controls are beautifully harmonised. To fly it, it’s a delightful airplane, it really is. To fly aerobatics and airshows it really is nice, but you have to manage your energy and it takes pilot skill to get around the skies. You have to fly it for every second you are in it. You have to pay attention.”

The Chipmunks arrived in Ireland in 1951 as a basic trainer for the Irish Air Corp. "Prior to that they bought second-hand aircraft from the likes of the RAF and other military services," says Alan. "It served as a basic trainer for four decades with the Irish Air Corp – for all their air crew. And for many years it also trained a lot of Aer Lingus pilots as well. It was their initial basic trainer. So it served the country well."

The Irish Historic Flight Foundation was established in December 2014 to promote the historical aspects of Irish aviation, and to date has restored three Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft and a DH 84 Dragon, all of which will over the heads of tens of thousands of spectators this weekend at the 11th annual Bray Air Display.

Aer Lingus used a Dragon Iolar (Eagle) for its first service, in 1936 – from Baldonnel Airfield in Dublin to Bristol Airport.

The Bray Air Display this weekend has, for the first time, being extended to a two-day event – with the IHFF flying the Chipmunks and Dragon on both Saturday and Sunday (the action getting underway around noon on both days).

Also among the highlights on both days will be the Frecce Tricolori, an Italian aerobatic display team, and the Breitling Wingwalkers, which perform as the name suggests.

But the star attraction – with apologies to the elegant Chipmunk – will undoubtedly come on Sunday afternoon with the arrival over Bray of the Red Arrows - the RAF’s aerobatic display team.

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen is Health & Family Editor of The Irish Times