For the second time in 20 years, Aer Rianta, Ireland's airport authority, has figured out how to keep Shannon Airport on the world airline map. The high cost of aviation fuel and the use of wide-bodied, longer-range aircraft has in the past few years severely cut down air traffic in and out of Shannon's famous airport. But now, to keep the facility viable, Aer Rianta is completing a new $2 million fuel tank installation for the refueling of an estimated 350 annual flights of narrow-bodied aircraft from the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries. Under agreement between the Soviet airline Aeroflot and Aer Rianta, the Irish authority will be responsible for all transit services. And Aeroflot has guaranteed to use 3 million gallons of fuel during the year.
In addition to reaching out for tangible and active support for Shannon, Aer Rianta has proposed to the US government that Shannon be used as a pre-clearance area for customs and immigration to lessen the congestion at US airports. The system has been in existence for several years at debarkation ports in Canada and the Bahamas but would be the first such arrangement for the US in Europe.
Shannon's first economic downturn began in 1959 when 80 percent of the then transatlantic air traffic stopped refueling there because of new jet aircraft usage. Shannon's unique resuscitation program at that time included opening the world's first duty-free industrial estate with attractive tax incentives and nonrepayable grants. Today about 100 companies employing almost 6,000 workers use the complex. Its exports in 1979 totaled more than $250 million.