Cyprus Aviation History
Introduction by Margaret Sheard…..
Having published a number of articles about Cyprus Aviation History, provided in conjunction with Captain Emre Unel, I started to think about Geçitkale Airport which I actually travelled to and from on two occasions while Ercan Airport was being refurbished and so I asked Emre if he could provide any information about this small airport and of course, being the aviation enthusiast he is, he came up with the following very interesting but quite sad account of Geçitkale Airport.
Shortly after the opening of Gecitkale Airport Emre, as a very young pilot, flew this single engine light aircraft all the way from Austria to Cyprus. The flight was conducted under visual flight rules with basic navigation only. It took him four days with refuelling stops in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey to reach the island.
CYPRIOT GHOST AIRPORTS
By Captain Emre Unel
When talking about Ghost Airports in Cyprus, the first thing that comes into one’s mind is Nicosia International Airport which has been abandoned since the war of 1974.
In fact Cyprus has two Ghost Airports.
The second one is a little known aerodrome at Lefkoniko / Gecitkale west of Famagusta.
This airport was built in the mid 1980s as an alternative airfield to Ercan (Tymbou) Airport and was periodically used for commercial flights until the early 2000s.
It boasts an almost 3000m long runway but as an alternate field had only basic passenger facilities.
Commercial flights stopped with the modernization and upgrade of Ercan Airport about 10 years ago.
However Gecitkale aerodrome continued to be used occasionally by the military and the local flying club.
A few years ago in an unbelievable feat of ignorance or miss-planning, the local electricity authority built a high voltage power overland grid line right across the take off path of the runway rendering the airport useless for larger aircraft. As most airplanes taking off towards the west would not be able to clear the power lines during climb out, the airport was closed and left to its destiny…….
The only tenants now are a small police station, a meteorological station and a mostly defunct flying club.
Note from Margaret Sheard – Chris Elliott and I visited the site of the old Geçitkale Airport on the 28th May hoping we could take a look at what is now there but unfortunately we were denied access. We were told by the policeman on duty at the gate and another gentleman that the flying club is no longer there and the airfield is now totally closed.
The airport has been decaying for years. What a waste and what a pity.
The airport was built during the early 1980s as a response to the construction of Paphos Airport.
Gecitkale was however never a military airport as is sometimes claimed. It was used by military aircraft occasionally but unlike Paphos does not have any military facilities.
It was mainly used when Ercan was under maintenance and for certain periods of time to keep it operational. However the move to and from Ercan eventually became too difficult, the basic passenger facilities were overloaded so the practice was abandoned with time.
The airport has all necessary facilities, a 3000m runway including lighting, navigation aids, control tower etc., now of course in need to be renewed…
It is a great pity that this beautiful airfield has been abandoned.
Even if it were not to be used as a commercial airport (Cyprus has enough) it should have been kept operational for two reasons.
Firstly, if Ercan would become unusable for any reason (blocked runway etc.) there would be no access to the north of the island by air.
And secondly Gecitkale would be an excellent location and have good potential to be used as a general aviation airfield hosting university flying schools, flying clubs, private aviation etc.
Any planned reactivation of LCGK will now of course cost a lot of money. Most importantly the power grid would have to be rerouted.
Thanks to Captain Unel for the use of his pictures.
As we have touched on the subject of Ercan Airport we would like to share with our readers the further refurbishment which is going to make this an airport of which to be so proud.
It is big project. What they are doing now is to move the current runway further to the east and extend it to 3200 meters. As the runway would block the road leading to the new terminal there is to be a tunnel to take the new road. So access to the new terminal will be from under the runway. The tunnel is now completed.
The next stage is the runway extension. At the same time the present apron will be enlarged.
Once these two are completed a start will be made on the second parallel runway and new passenger terminal.
The whole project will take about 4 years in total.