27 December 2020
By Bryan Smyth
The main airport in the South of Ireland is – of course – Cork Airport, and it’s in the news recently because it has very little traffic, due to the COVID19 downturn in travel.
But did you know that Bantry, in West Cork has an airstrip? which always has little traffic! We cannot use the usual word airport because there is no terminal building, there is only a runway, and a smaller hangar.
The history of the airstrip dates back to 1967 when the Gulf Oil Corporate were building a storage terminal on Whiddy Island to the North. The spot of land where the airstrip is now located was the closest flat piece of mainland. It was used as a staging area for the complex pipe-work in the terminal, and was a hive of industrial activity.
The airstrip is 1.5 NM (2.8 km; 1.7 mi) west-south-west of Bantry town. It is surrounded by coastline on three sides.
Elevation: AMSL 7 ft / 2 m
Coordinates: 51°40′08″N 009°29′04″W
Runway Direction: 07/25
Runway Lenght: 450m 1,476ft
Runway Surface: Bitumen
The airstrip, originally 3 fields, was built in the 1970’s by Rowa Pharmaceutical Company. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) inspect the airfield every 12 months. The plot of land on which the runway is located is owned by Rowaprop Limited. The company was established in 2009. According to documents filed at the Companies Registration Office Rowaprop Limited is “associated with” five other companies called “Rowa (Ireland) Limited, Rowa Pharmaceuticals Limited, Rowex Limited, Rowic Limited, Rowanet Limited”.
The Rowa Group of companies are long-established employers in the Bantry area, and contribute to numerous charities and events. The pharma firm has German roots; Managing Director Brigitte Wagner-Halswick maintains homes in both Cork and Germany where she assists with German-Irish relations and holds the title of Honorary Consul of Ireland in Cologne.
Why did a German pharma firm locate in West Cork? and why did it build an Airstrip?
In the late 1950’s Cologne industrialist Roland Wagner visited Bantry and fell in love with the scenery and the surroundings. The name Rowa comes from his name Roland Wagner. After opening the facility in 1959 he then divided his time between Bantry and Cologne. Travel was much slower back then, so the businessman decided to build his own airstrip. The most suitable piece of flat land was on the Western outskirts of the Bantry, soon he as able to commute in his twin-engine Cessna.
Today, Bantry airstrip is managed by Denis Connolly. His Bantry Aviation Facebook page contains many interesting photos and nuggets of information.
The area, now used as an Airstrip, was, in the 1840s, occupied by a Coast Guard Station and boat house.