By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 22 July 2014:
Afriqiyah Airways is working to resume flights to its four European destinations and is hoping to use . . .[restrict]Misrata tomorrow to run its normal Wednesday return service to Dusseldorf. Its other EU destinations are Rome, Paris and London.
Sources at the airline told the Libya Herald this evening that the situation was still confused but that it was hoped that Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport could soon be used instead of Misrata. This, it is being said, could happen as early as this Thursday.
The airspace in western Libya has been closed because the area radar is at Tripoli International Airport. Unlike the control tower, which handles final approaches and ground movements, the area radar facility has not been damaged in the fighting. However the air traffic controllers have until now refused to go in to work, not least because of the insecurity of the Airport Road.
Afriqiyah has been able to overcome a ban on flights by Libyan aircraft through EU airspace by re-registering three of its Airbus A320s in Ireland, the last of which is due to complete its reregistration shortly. The arrangement involves the Irish firm Air Contractors. Both of the operating “Irish” Afriqiyah planes are currently at Misrata.
They thus escaped the destruction of aircraft during the fight for control of the airport. It is reported that one Afriqiyah Airbus A320 suffered only “superficial” damage but one of the airline’s Airbus A350 (5A-ONF) was completely destroyed. It appears that a vehicle was driven beneath the tail of the aircraft and then set on fire.
It is understood the UK Department of Transport has given a temporary dispensation for the airline’s Tripoli-London Gatwick flight to use Misrata. However a spokesman for the Irish Aviation Authority told this paper today: “Air Contractors operated flights for Afriqiyah from Misrata Airport in Libya up to last Wednesday, July 16th. The return flights on that day diverted to Djerba in Tunisia. Since then, Air Contractors has suspended operations for Afriqiyah, and is carrying out daily risk assessments prior to the resumption of operations”.
It is believed that French, German, Italian and UK authorities are being asked to give a temporary approval for the use of Mitiga, in the east of the capital. In principle, said an airline source, if the area radar controllers can return to their screens at Tripoli International Airport, they could handle flights using both Mitiga and Misrata.
The Irish Aviation Authority refused to comment on its own view of Mitiga. The spokesman said: “It is not the policy of the IAA to make public information regarding our airworthiness, flight operations and aerodromes inspection programme. This is standard practice in EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency] member states”.
Afriqiyah today published a schedule of the flights it hopes to fly from Misrata over the next seven days (all times are GMT):.
12:55 Rome Misrata