We have no re­dun­dancy (2)

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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

Edi­tor’s pick

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.

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