(Feature image: Mario Caruana)
The recently set up Aviation Advisory Committee has immediately embarked on a number of studies. Interestingly, one of the topics which has resurfaced focuses on the Gozo Heliport and Qrendi Airfield. Experts within the committee have been tasked to put forward proposals for an eco-friendly and sustainable airstrip for both STOL aircraft as well as vertical landing and take-off aircraft. The AAC is fully aware that the ever expanding General Aviation sector in Malta needs space to thrive. A sub-group within the AAC is working in this direction and will present its recommendations in the coming months.
Over the years, one of the biggest supporters of such an initiative has been British citizen and Gozo resident Roy S Perry who since 1997 had been advocating for the building of a 400 to 600 metre eco-friendly airstrip. In an article published way back in May 2008, leading Gozitan businessman John Magro told then Times of Malta journalist Christopher Scicluna that he backed all forms of accessibility to Gozo. A year earlier, the Gozo Business Chamber had also called on the government to build a small airstrip so that GA fixed-wing aircraft could land on Malta’s sister island. When interviewed about the subject, more than 13-years ago, well-known GA pilots Roberto Benetti and Victor Mercieca were adamant that if general aviation were to be taken seriously, it would have a beneficial effect on the local economy at large. The latter had also proposed a landing strip to be built on reclaimed land at Mġarr Harbour. This proposal was revealed in an article which appeared on ToM in January 2009 in a news item penned by Christian Peregin.
Fairoaks Airport based Synergy Aviation had also shown great interest in the Gozo airstrip project and in 2008 made a presentation to then ministers Giovanna Debono and Ċensu Galea about a possible airlink between the two islands. The Gozo Business Chamber and the Gozo Tourism Association were also in attendance, however after a few weeks, all went eerily quiet and nothing much was heard of in the months that followed.
The current Aviation Advisory Committee is chaired by ex-EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella. He is flanked by a number of local experts, some of whom have first-hand experience of the needs that the local GA community has. This pragmatic experience, should help in no small way to make sound and sensible decisions on the future of the Qrendi Airfield and Gozo Heliport.