It happens I had to go up to Dublin recently and chose a cheap flight with Irish Elastic Airways. With oil prices fluctuating and the globe hotting up, public transport faces ever-increasing challenges to get us from A to B cheaply and in a way that won’t leave polar bears selling the Big Issue on street corners. So news that people are commuting from Cork to Dublin and back by giant catapult, comes as no surprise. The man behind Irish Elastic Airways, Bernard Kerr met me on the docks in Cork. I have to say, I’m obviously not the only one to get butterflies about flying. Behind a vast iron ‘Y’ bolted to the quayside, a line of prospective catapultees were laughing nervously as they watched a man clamber into a pouch. As the elastic was winched back, I asked Bernard about his enterprise.
“Hang on, there’s one just taking off........”
There was a colossal twang, then a whoosh.
As the man vanished like a missile over Cork City, Bernard turned back to me:
“Bernard,” I asked, “Is shooting people from one side of the country to the other by giant catapult really the answer to our transport problems?”
“Well it’s fast. Dublin to Cork takes twenty five minutes. It’s cheap. The elastic only needs changing after every ten thousand flights. We can send people for five euros return, and there are family flights, up to six all in the one pouch. If you don’t mind getting a bit wet at the other end, it certainly beats the traffic jams. Basically people are fired off in life jackets and land in the sea at the other side of the country. It’s perfectly safe, as there’s no sharks off our coastline. Catapultees from Cork land in the Irish Sea and face a ten minute swim into Dublin.”
As we watched a young couple clamber into the large pouch together, I asked Bernard about the safety of the system and talk of fatalities.
“It is safe,” he assured me, “We tested the system by firing mice in lifejackets, then dogs and chimpanzees before moving on to humans. Last month a circus was late for an engagement in Galway and we fired five elephants over. That made a bit of a splash in more ways than one. You get fatalities on the road. And with us you’ll never crash at the top of a mountain and have to eat your crew, which happened with one airline. You have to accept that if you step out of your front door you could be run over. Hang on, there’s another.........”
There was a double scream as the catapult twanged again. Bernard continued:
“We’ve had a few people fall short of the Irish Sea, it’s true. But they weren’t holding their arms out properly. You see, you have to stay streamlined, make yourself aerodynamic or over several hundred miles you’ll create wind resistance and fall short of the target. We did have to change the colour of our lifejackets from red and blue, because people by the sea were complaining of a plague of Supermen. But though we’ve had a couple of pavement pancakes, a few collisions and fatalities from people trying to scramble round in mid-air and turn back, we think Irish Elastic Airways are flying in the right direction for the years ahead.
“Any plans for the future.” I asked as I clambered up into the hot seat.
“Oh definitely.” Bernard assured me, “Once we’ve got stronger elastic sorted from our suppliers we’ll be starting transatlantic flights – people will be fired to New York for 25 euro.”
Once I got over the feelings of terror the flight was unexpectedly pleasurable, though in trying to write the first draft of this article as I flew, I unfortunately dropped my laptop somewhere over County Meath. Hopefully there was nobody underneath. I have to say the lads at IEA probably won’t really get their project off the ground until problems like that are sorted out. However, don’t let my experiences deter you from giving IEA a twang.