By Margaret Sheard ……
There has been some speculation and comment on Facebook about the recent incident of a Qantas flight from Sydney, Australia, heading for London Heathrow Airport via Dubai, being diverted to Larnaca Airport due to a medical emergency on the flight when a pregnant passenger became unwell.
The flight was diverted to Larnaca Airport and it was necessary to obtain clearance from Ercan Airport to overfly the TRNC. The immediate reaction was – Ercan is visible when it suits – and we decided to make some enquiries from Ercan Airport management to establish the reality of the situation.
In the TRNC we are aware that the country, including the airport, is not recognised other than by Turkey but of course airspace is another matter and for this particular flight, permission to use this airspace was required. On checking with Ercan Airport management we were advised that permission was given, as in an emergency this would be normal practice.
This, however, raised a question in our minds that even if Ercan Airport was recognised under the Chicago Convention, would the aircraft actually have been able to land at Ercan. The Qantas aircraft was an A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, and the answer we received from Ercan was – No, the runway at 2,700m would not have been able to accommodate the landing of the A380. Although we were also told that the new runway currently under construction at 3,200m, when operational, would be able to take the landing of this type of aircraft.
This poses the question that if any other aircraft with a similar emergency that would be able to land on Ercan’s existing runway, which is internationally banned, would it have sought permission to overfly Northern Cyprus rather than land at Ercan Airport, where the passenger could be assured of excellent medical care at a local hospital with a minimum of delay.
We feel it is important that people are aware that even if there were no landing restrictions at Ercan Airport, on this occasion the flight could not have landed in any event.