CitizenSailor

Lucky Charms - Lucky Charms commemorative patch created after Irish peace protesters vandalized a C-40 twice at the Shannon airport (represented by two band-aids)
Commemorative patch created after Irish peace protesters
vandalized a C-40 twice at the Shannon airport (represented by two band-aids)

In January 2003, during the initial build up for Operation Iraqi Freedom, a strange incident happened at the Shannon Airport in Ireland involving a brand new Navy C-40A and Irish peace protesters who were unhappy with the Irish government’s approval of U.S. and other military aircraft being allowed to stop for fuel in-transit to support the growing presence in the Middle East.

Trans-oceanic flights are not uncommon at all for both civilian and military transport aircraft and a common topic is where to plan a stop for fuel and to allow the crew to rest overnight. A popular location frequently selected was the fixed base operator (FBO) at the airport in Shannon Ireland. Its popularity was based on several factors (fantastic scenery, some great local pubs to get a meal and pint of Guinness, an excellent duty-free shop and because it was on the U.S. government contract list making it reasonable in cost).

The First Band-aid
The First
Band-aid

The Navy had just received its 5th and newest C-40A the prior year (2002) and this was to be it’s first full fledged detachment in support of fleet operations in the Mediterranean region. But it wasn’t meant to be. On the night of January 29th, Mary Kelly, a 51 year old protester, climbed the airport’s perimeter fence and began to swing an axe at the parked C-40′s nose wheel strut and tires. With the tires inflated to 200PSI, she was lucky she didn’t subject herself to an explosion with enough force to kill a human caused by puncturing a tire with the axe. Instead she was arrested and charged with trespassing and criminal damage. She admitted to all of her actions.

The damage Ms. Kelly inflicted was significant enough to require the aircraft to be repaired before it could be ferried back to the States and it was moved into a hangar to allow for repairs. The total estimated cost for repairs: just under $1M.

The Second Band-aid
The Second
Band-aid

Over the five days after the incident with the hatchet, repairs were made to the aircraft and it was cleared for a ‘one-time’ ferry flight back to the US where the remaining repairs could be completed. The night before it was to return (February 3rd), a group of five individuals who call themselves the “Pitstop Ploughshares” broke into the hangar and again damaged the aircraft (this time using picks and hammers) and painted on the hangar door “Pitstop of Death”. They were arrested and charged with two counts of criminal damage. Like Kelly, they too admitted to all of their actions.

 

The members of the Pitstop Ploughshares posing
with actor Martin Sheen

The damage the group inflicted was more severe. The Irish authorities moved heavier security into the airport and forced the protesters camping on the grounds surrounding the airport to leave. The aircraft was again repaired and finally ferried back to the United States where it was sent to the Boeing facility in Wichita, KS for repairs. The total estimated cost for repairs (including the first incident): approximately $3.2M.

Angry Lucky Leprechaun with his hatchet
Angry Lucky
Leprechaun with
his hatchet

So by now you’re probably asking “Where exactly did the Lucky Charms patch idea come from?” After the second time the aircraft was damaged, one of the squadron maintenance personnel asked a rhetorical question: “Why do they keep going back at this aircraft for more?!” and without missing a beat, one of the squadron Chief’s responded “They’re Always After me Lucky Charms!” in a silly Irish accent like the cartoon cereal character, Lucky Leprechaun. The response of course evoked a lot of laughter, but also bore a nickname for the aircraft “Lucky Charms”.

The patch concept was born and quickly created (by yours truly). The patches sold out quickly, many to Boeing employees involved in the repair of the aircraft.

The aircraft was at the Boeing facility for several months during which the lower skin on the pilot’s side was replaced all the way back to the wing root and the skin on the co-pilot’s side was replaced back to the service door. Quite a shame for an aircraft that had been flying for less than 500 hours.

Aircraft 833 as it looked upon delivery to the Boeing facility in Wichita
Aircraft 833 as it looked upon delivery to the Boeing
facility in Wichita
 
Aircraft skin from the left side removed for making a template for the replacement skin
Aircraft skin from the left side removed for making a
template for the replacement skin



Aircraft 833 with its lower skin removed and the engines
covered
 
A closer look at the left side; notice the engine cowling has been removed for replacement because of damage
A closer look at the left side; notice the engine cowling has
been removed for replacement because of damage

A view of the copilot's side with the replacement skin being attached
A view of the copilot’s side with the replacement skin
being attached
 
A close-up view of the port (left) wing root and the skin replacement
A close-up view of the port (left) wing root and the skin
replacement

So you might be asking now what happened to the folks who damaged the aircraft. Shockingly not much. After 3 trials, Mary Kelly was found guilty and given a 4 year, suspended sentence of 2 years in prison. The Pitstop Ploughshares were never convicted after 3 separate trials.

The real losers were the people in the surrounding area of Limerick Ireland whose economy suffered as a result. Many were either employed by the airport or felt the effects of the lost revenue because of the decision by the U.S. wing commanders to cease allowing refuel or overnight stops at Shannon. In an attempt to try to recapture some of the lost revenue, the local authorities built a very large police facility at the airport and developed better tactics to ensure the security of transient aircraft.

  • http://www.Theflyingpinto.com theflyingpinto

    Wow…that’s quite the story! If you are truly after peace, you “live” that example. These people certainly are not a peace group in my opinion.

    I love your patch…very creative!! (Of course I love Lucky Charms too: )

    Another super post…well said, pics are awesome!

  • http://www.Theflyingpinto.com theflyingpinto

    Wow…that’s quite the story! If you are truly after peace, you “live” that example. These people certainly are not a peace group in my opinion.

    I love your patch…very creative!! (Of course I love Lucky Charms too: )

    Another super post…well said, pics are awesome!

  • John Ireland

    sad commentary on the local justice system. :(

    thanks for your service!

    John Ireland
    USAFR (97-03)

  • John Ireland

    sad commentary on the local justice system. :(

    thanks for your service!

    John Ireland
    USAFR (97-03)

  • http://www.peacenikhurler.blogspot.com Damien Moran

    Not only were the Irish peace activists ‘never convicted after 3 trials’, they were in fact acquitted unanimously by jury trial. Warmongering 0 – 1 Peacemongering :-)

  • http://www.peacenikhurler.blogspot.com Damien Moran

    Not only were the Irish peace activists ‘never convicted after 3 trials’, they were in fact acquitted unanimously by jury trial. Warmongering 0 – 1 Peacemongering :-)

  • Righteous Leprechaun

    People all around the world hate the US military – it’s the most despised institution on earth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DeirdreClancy Deirdre Clancy

    Just a couple of quibbles: I never heard any real evidence that the surrounding economy suffered because of our actions. The economy throughout Ireland has suffered since then because of irresponsible behaviour on the part of the banking community (in Ireland and worldwide) and politicians. Opposition to the Iraq War was very widespread at the time and the initial pretexts for the invasion were discredited very widely; it’s important to put our actions in context. As Damien rightly points out, we were unanimously acquitted by an Irish jury, which decided we had a lawful excuse for what we did, that lawful excuse being that we were attempting to protect life and property in Iraq. 
    We certainly were a peace group, ‘theflyingpinto’. Living it means not being passive in the face of injustice. Pacifism is not the same thing as passivity.We probably don’t agree on much, but time marches on. I’m glad your patches did well and that the episode inspired a business idea … 

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