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Biggles stopped by Malta to refuel during his pursuit of the drug smuggling ship in Biggles' Combined Operation. Although he was flying an Otter amphibian, it is unlikely that he landed at R.A.F. seaplane base at Calafrana. Although the base was still used by the R.A.F. in the late 1950s when he arrived, it stopped receiving marine aircraft in 1946. It is more likely that Biggles would have used the civil airport, then known as Luqa Airport now also known as Malta International Airport.

Malta International Airport was first planned as a military airfield in 1935 when the R.A.F. felt that it needed an all-weather airfield as a supplement to the existing seaplane base at Calafrana and the airstrips at Hal-Far and Ta' Qali. Work started in 1939 and Luqa became the first airfield in Malta to have a paved runway. The original airfield had 4 runways, the existing 06/24 and 14/32 (which have since been lengthened) and 18/36 and 09/27 which are no longer in use although traces of them remain as roads or taxiways.

Luqa played an important role during World War 2, hosting several R.A.F. squadrons. Fighter squadrons at Luqa defended Malta against attacks from the Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force while squadrons of Wellington bombers and strike aircraft such as Beauforts and Beaufighters ensured Allied control of the Mediterranean sea lanes, interdicting Axis convoys attempting to resupply Rommel in the North African desert.

The R.A.F. continued to operate an air base at Luqa after the war, basing squadrons of Meteors, Lancasters and Shackletons there. The R.A.F. presence at Luqa would continue until 1978.

After World War 2, Malta's civil air traffic began to focus on Luqa, with an apron (Park 8) being devoted to civil aircraft. In the early days, the civil air terminal shared the facilities of the R.A.F. Officers Mess but as passenger traffic grew, the need for a separate terminal became apprarent. The government financed a civil air terminal in 1956 and this was opened in 1958 at Apron 8. Following Malta's independence in 1964, the Maltese government began to plan for the expansion of Luqa to accommodate the latest passenger jet aircraft. in 1972 work was begun to extend runway 13/31. The works which more than doubled the runway length to its present-day size were completed in 1977 and made the airport capable of accommodating the largest B747 aircraft. In 1989 work began on a new passenger terminal at Apron 9 and this was completed in 1992.[2] The new terminal was state of the art and since that time Malta has frequently won awards. In 2013 for example, Malta was in the Skytrax Top 10 World's Best Airports (in the Airpots under 5 million passengers a year category).

ReferencesEdit

  1. Malta AIP
  2. Maltese History & Heritage: Airfields - an excellent history of aviation and airfields in Malta, a project that is part of the Vassallomalta.com website.

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