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An illustrated visit to Nicosia International Airport – Part 2

NIC_000_800p_72I’ll let Taff Lark tell the story of the last few days of Nicosia International Airport’s operation in 1974:

“As the newly appointed operations control superintendent for the eastern Mediterranean I found myself on the jump seat of the first Cyprus Airways BAC 111 back into Nicosia after the fall of Makarios. There were no customs or immigration staff on arrival and only minimal ATC staff. There were no facilities for food and drink. Relative calm prevailed, but there were no phones. However to my surprise the telex continued to work all the time we were at the airport and I was able to maintain contact with colleagues in London and Athens.

The terminal was rapidly filling up with delayed passengers and others hoping to get off the island. The plan was to operate a shuttle service between Nicosia and Athens as aircraft and crews became available, to uplift as many passengers as possible in the shortest time. There had been a Trident on the ground when the coup started, with a crew stuck in the Hilton; another Trident was on its way from Athens with an engineer on board.

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All was going well, with crews and passengers and some elderly airport staff helping with baggage. On the Wednesday morning the night stopping crew were held at gunpoint outside the airport terminal. They had already witnessed the troubles in town and were ready to leave. Some fast talking and help from the captain eventually got them on their way.

Later that day a British crew with Cyprus Airways arrived from Kyrenia – one crew member, who had served in World War II, had seen Turkish citizens clearing large areas of land and was convinced they were preparing for a parachute drop. On Wednesday night aircraft of Lufthansa and Hapag Lloyd uplifted as many German citizens as wished to leave – but would not take anybody else.

Wednesday afternoon saw the arrival of the BEA marketing director Charles Stuart. We were so shorthanded that he was asked to lend a hand – and did, for 18 hours. The following morning he and I went to the high commission to try to get an assessment of the situation. The advice given was that the new provisional president, Nikos Sampson (a senior EOKA-B member who was subsequently convicted of murder) appeared to have the situation under control and we should advise our passengers to carry on with their holidays and enjoy the sunshine, as it was not felt there would be any worsening of the situation. Subsequent events disproved this diagnosis comprehensively…

We continued to operate the shuttle while trying to obtain further information from all sources. A long-haul Boeing 707 joined the shuttle fleet and Cyprus Airways continued to operate when crews and aircraft were available. On the Friday afternoon a Cyprus Airways Trident was inbound from Rome with only crew on board. As we were awaiting a possible VC-10 arrival from Khartoum on diversion to pick up passengers we were listening to the air traffic control channel.

At approximately 1600 the captain of the CY Trident called up and urgently requested clearance to divert to Beirut. When questioned as to the reason, he said that he was descending through 12,000 feet and had just passed over a large fleet of warships and landing craft. He had made a circuit of these ships and seen to his alarm that they were flying the Turkish flag. He was advised to break his transmission and land at Nicosia as planned…his was the last aircraft to land at the airport; it was damaged beyond repair during the invasion.”

From Taff Lark’s website

Below is a 360° image (courtesy of Bo de Visser, Holland) of the airport departures waiting lounge, here are the instructions to use it:

1. Be patient till you see the 360 degree photograph on your screen;

2. Click the picture and keep your left mouse button pressed down;

3. Move the cursor slowly to the right, left, top or bottom of the picture;

4. To study a detail release the mouse button.

5. you can see details (zoom in and zoom out) by clicking on the – or + at the bottom of the picture (usually played in QuickTime Player)

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