We have no re­dun­dancy

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Prac­ti­cally, all com­ments re­gard­ing last Mon­day’s un­for­tu­nate air crash at the air­port re­garded the is­sue how it hap­pened, how it could have been worse for peo­ple who hap­pened to pass from there just a few min­utes be­fore, then what was the real mis­sion of the plane, what was it do­ing in Malta, what is go­ing on be­hind our backs with re­gards to Libya, etc. etc.

What fol­lows are re­flec­tions that go be­yond all this, but do not mean that the above is­sues are in any way to be put aside. Sim­ply put: What we want to point out is that as re­gards air travel, we in Malta are with­out any re­dun­dancy. On Mon­day, once the air­port was closed, there was no al­ter­na­tive way, not just for civil avi­a­tion and gen­eral avi­a­tion but also as re­gards the Armed Forces fly­ing wing. We have no doubt that the de­ci­sion to close the air­port was the right de­ci­sion to take even though we have two run­ways and the ac­ci­dent took place on the shorter one, thus leav­ing the long run­way free.

But once the de­ci­sion not to fly was taken, there was no way for flights ei­ther ar­riv­ing

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or de­part­ing. As hap­pens when the Malta air­port is closed eg for storms, ar­riv­ing planes had to land in Si­cily and then fly to Malta later, thus lead­ing to a huge knock-on de­lay which was still caus­ing de­lays up to a day later.

The fact is we have no al­ter­na­tive air­port. Now this can be in­ter­preted as a spe­cious ar­gu­ment in favour of an air­port in Gozo, but it isn’t. MIA is Malta’s front door, and we, so far, have no other al­ter­na­tive. We have no re­dun­dancy. It should be a strate­gic im­per­a­tive that we as a coun­try must have an al­ter­na­tive, for so many rea­sons, not just in case of an ac­ci­dent, or in case of a storm. In elec­tric­ity pro­vi­sion we do have a re­dun­dancy, an al­ter­na­tive, but we have no such al­ter­na­tive as re­gards air travel. As re­gards ac­cess to Gozo, we have been around this for so many times. We have toyed with a bridge, lately with a tun­nel – all costly means. At the same time, there has been rock-like op­po­si­tion to length­en­ing the small run­way at the he­li­port so that it can take small planes. The end re­sult is a he­li­port ly­ing there all aban­doned. We are not ask­ing that to­day; we must think in a more strate­gic man­ner. It is in Malta’s over­ly­ing strate­gic in­ter­est to de­velop a small air­port at Xewk­ija that can take planes that nor­mally land at MIA with enough fa­cil­i­ties that per­mit a turn­around. The land is there, and most of it is ne­glected any­way.

Ob­vi­ously, an air­port at Xewk­ija, even if a small one, will cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for its sur­round­ings, jobs, op­por­tu­ni­ties to fly from there rather than from Malta, etc. What used to be un­thought of in the past has now be­come a re­al­ity: Ryanair, for in­stance, flies from Comiso to many air­ports in Europe.

And cer­tainly, both Goz­i­tans and peo­ple en­joy­ing a hol­i­day in Gozo rel­ish catch­ing a plane right there on Gozo than go­ing through all the has­sle of catch­ing the ship, and trav­el­ling all the long way along Malta’s con­gested roads to get to MIA.

But the main rea­son is that in to­day’s world Malta can­not just have one main door and no other.

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