Wednesday, September 4, 2013

■ LIBYA: Plans to switch ops from Tripoli International to Mitiga prove unfeasible; TIP to remain open.

Libyan Ministry of Transport plans to close Tripoli International Airport for a three-month long period from October to December in order to effect a much-needed runway upgrade project, have been put on hold after Tripoli Mitiga Airport's handling capacity was found to be inadequate.

An unnamed source reportedly told the Libyan Herald that the plan had proven unworkable owing to Mitiga's much smaller size. As such, authorities are now mulling the rehabilitation of Tripoli's secondary runway, the 2'235m-long 18/36, as a possible interim solution while the larger 3'600m-long 09/27 is gradually upgraded. One of the phases commences at midnight on Thursday, September 5 and lasts until 18h00L on Friday, September 6 during which time Tripoli International Airport will be closed. Several airlines, including Alitalia (AZ), will be redirecting its Friday flights to Mitiga Airport while others, including Air Malta (KM), have chosen to postpone that day's flights.

Tripoli International currently has 20 known scheduled carriers operating while Mitiga has three.

Libya's aeronautical infrastructure suffered from neglect during the period that followed the passing and enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 748, adopted unanimously on 31 March 1992, which froze the country's assets and established a No-Fly Zone over the country by, among other measures, denying permission to Libyan aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly their own territory.

Current overview of Tripoli International Airport (IAL-NASA)
Gaddhafi-era schematic for New Tripoli International Airport
Sanctions were imposed after Libya refused to comply with an order to hand over two bombers responsible for the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight UT772 and to accept responsibility for the payment of restitution to the families of victims. Moammur Gaddafi refused compliance until 1999 when he authorized the turnover of the bombing suspects as part of his attempt to bring Libya in from the diplomatic cold.

The upgrade of Tripoli International Airport to an international hub was started just prior to Gaddhafi's overthrow in 2011 but has since been suspended.