We have no redundancy (2)
On Friday 28th October, this paper reflected on the closure of the Malta International Airport the day of the crash of the French private plane and stated that the closure of the whole airport shows we do not have an alternative to the one and only airport in the Maltese Islands. Now it happened again. On Wednesday, three flights approaching Malta diverted to Catania because the Instrument Landing System was being upgraded.
This paper reported that one flight, a Vueling from Barcelona, actually told passengers that it would be best if “they go by ferry or wait for the clouds to clear”.
Contacted by this newspaper, a spokesperson for the Malta International Airport said that at the moment, MIA is investing €1.6 million in upgrading its Instrument Landing System, which provides pilots with guidance during an approach to land.
“Unfortunately this project has been delayed due to circumstances outside of our control. The runway facing the northerly landing direction remains available, however, due to inclement weather conditions some incoming flights were diverted. In the meantime, other
arrivals from Eindhoven, Gerona, and Paris amongst others, have in fact landed”.
Later on that same day, a statement issued by the Minister of Tourism said it has asked for reports both from MIA and from Malta Air Traffic Services and to be kept abreast of developments.
Again, this new incident shows that Malta is perilously short of adequate cover when it comes to flight issues.
One assumes the airport authorities did try to get the upgrade for ILS done in summer, but it was delayed by forces beyond its control.
Now in yesterday’s paper we read that a 3,000-metre wide, 2,000-foot high no fly zone has been established around the LNG tanker.
As the paper’s report said, although this is not directly in the plane flight-path leading to MIA, it still curtails plane movements around the airport.
Malta is small and things will necessarily have to be next to each other, if not on top of each other. But airlines, flight security and such cannot tolerate margins of error.
Once again, one sees how to depend on just one airport may not be the best policy. In February 2013, Joseph Muscat said a Gozo airstrip was not a priority. In July 2013 the PN Tourism Minister announced that the government was considering an new 400metre or 650-metre airstrip in Ta’ Lambert area.
It was later announced that talks were ongoing with an Italian company while plans were submitted to Brussels for a 900-metre long airfield.
In January 2014, just before the election, some work was done to begin to clear rubble and dumping in the area. Then came the election and the last we heard was Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announcing the government was considering a grass airstrip in Gozo. But the completed feasibility study was never presented to Parliament. The whole project seems to have disappeared from the government’s radar.
While we are on flight matters, we cannot not look on Air Malta and weep to see the sorry state to which it has been brought. It brings to kind a sick dog who one would be moved to have mercy and finish it off.
Flight connections and access are absolutely necessary for Malta and must be kept alive around the clock, whatever the weather, whatever the circumstances.