What to bear in mind when monitoring US military flights landing at a civilian Irish airport.
Not your typical anoraks, the planespotters Tim, Ed and Conor have become adept at monitoring and tracking the US military flights that land and refuel at Shannon Airport in neutral Ireland. Since early 2003 the lads have continued to photograph troops in desert fatigues hanging out in the arrivals hall and they have documented thousands of US military flights enroute or returning from active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. More recently they have recorded sightings of small planes linked with the US governments secretive policy of Extraordinary Rendition. Is the next stop for these unmarked charter planes Guantánamo Bay?
With a punchy beat driven soundtrack provided by Felix Laband and Captain Asthma, Aoibheann O’Sullivan takes the viewer on a light-hearted caper through a serious issue.
Since early 2003, well over a million US troops have passed through Shannon Airport on their way to active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Shannonwatch planespotters have been there from the beginning, documenting the chartered troop carriers landing at this civilian airport in a neutral country.
While some planes have been clearly marked as US military aircraft, countless are unmarked charter flights that have been leased, re-leased and leased again in attempts to disguise their military function. Many of these have been directly implicated in the United States governments controversial program of ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ and Shannon Airport was mentioned as a key stopover point in a EU investigation into this practice.
Despite An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s National Police Service) and the Shannon Airport Authority using bright lights, harassment, arrests and court proceedings in an attempt to dissuade them, the Shannonwatch lads have continued to persevere with their undertaking. They publicise all their findings online, and this information has been essential in the coordinated effort to uncover and highlight the Irish governments complicity in two highly controversial wars.
On the 6th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, documentary filmmaker Aoibheann O’Sullivan travelled to the small airport in the west of Ireland to catch up with the military planespotters.
The result: 8 Things to Remember if you want to be a Shannonwatch planespotter.
Directed by: Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Camera: Aoibheann O’Sullivan, Nigel Heather & Scooter Twomey