Portrush air show: chocks away for Spitfire to star
It's Ireland's largest airshow - and this year there's a new star in town.
The Ulster Aviation Society's Belfast Telegraph Spitfire is to get its biggest outing yet when it takes pride of place among the attractions at the Air Waves Portrush event this weekend.
The replica of the World War II icon, the only one in Ireland, will be a huge draw for aviation enthusiasts visiting the Northern Ireland International Airshow 2014 on the north coast this Saturday and Sunday.
The opportunity for the public to see the replica Spitfire comes soon after the UAS was forced to cancel its annual open day at its Maze-Long Kesh base after being caught up in a political row between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
More than 5,000 people attended the event last year and the charity had hoped thousands more would attend this year before the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister refused to grant permission because of political disagreement over the Maze.
UAS chairman Ray Burrows said the team is now looking forward to showing the craft off at the Air Waves Portrush aviation festival.
"It is the first time the people of the north coast can get a chance to look at the Spitfire up close," he said. "It is the only Spitfire in Ireland. Even though it's a replica, it's a replica of the most iconic aircraft ever built."
The society acquired the Spitfire in December 2013 and it is an exact replica of one of 17 funded by Belfast Telegraph readers 70 years ago in a boost to the war effort.
Readers have once again been digging deep to help the UAS fund the replica which was bought with a £20,000 loan which fundraisers have been helping pay back.
Mr Burrows also said the UAS team is "still pretty low" after its open day last month was blocked by Sinn Fein.
Future events at Maze-Long Kesh have now been plunged into doubt after the party made it clear there would be no approval for similar events until the DUP agreed to press ahead with development of the site.
"We are going to hopefully go for another aircraft and funding from the open day would have helped with it," Ray explained.
"We have August 22/23 2015 pencilledin for next year. We are hoping people at OFMDFM have got the message that it is only the public that are getting hurt."
For more about the work of the Ulster Aviation Society visit www.ulsteraviationsociety.org