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A flight through aviation history

From 1926 to date

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

The history of aviation in Malta, starting from the first passenger plane landing in 1926, is charted in an exhibition at Malta International Airport.

The first step in Maltese aviation was taken in the 1920s when seaplanes, carrying one or two passengers and some mail from England and Italy, began landing in the military bases of Marsascala and Kalafrana, according to research by former MIA director Joseph R. Darmanin who put the exhibition together.

Mr Darmanin said the first commercial plane arrived from Italy in 1926. The airline Ala Littoria then started operating scheduled services from Naples to Syracuse, with the plane then flying on to Tripoli.

At the time the country had no proper airport and it was still some years before the old terminal at Luqa started being built. Indeed, it was in the 1950s that the British authorities started to discuss the building of a terminal at Luqa, which opened in 1958 and continued being extended until 1988, with the existent terminal opening in 1992.

The exhibition, which coincides with the opening of MIA's new extension, is housed in the area between the departures and arrivals lounges.

It includes detailed maps, drawings and still-unpublished material related to aviation.

It defines the airfields used in Malta before, during and after World War II.

Models of Kalafrana, the first landing place for civilian aircraft, and of the present airport are on display.

Aviation timeline

• Kalafrana became the first airbase in Malta by 1922.

• The first airfield was built by the RAF in Ħal Far and inaugurated on January 16, 1923. It remained an important airfield until 1976.

• Two Italian companies - Società Anonima Navigazione Aerea and Ala Littoria - started regular services linking Malta to Italy and Libya in 1930.

• The RAF built three other airfields in Qrendi, Ta' Qali and Luqa by 1946.

• Between 1946 and 1957 the Luqa air terminal played a dual role as Malta's aviation air terminal and the RAF Officers' Mess.

• 1946 also saw the setting up of Air Malta Ltd.

• Planning for a new aviation air terminal started in 1956. It was officially inaugurated on March 31, 1958.

• About 350,000 air passengers travelled to or from Malta in 1969, seven times the 50,000 that passed through the Luqa air terminal in 1960.

• A new runway was opened on October 1, 1977. All types of aircraft, including the Boeing 747 and the Concorde, could land on the new runway. The site for the new terminal had been cleared.

• The foundation stone for the new terminal was laid on September 22, 1989. The new terminal was opened on February 8, 1992.

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