Seychelles International Airport
|Seychelles International Airport
Aéroport International de Seychelles – Pointe Larue
|Airport type||Public / Military|
|Operator||SCAA (Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority)|
|Hub for||Air Seychelles|
|Elevation AMSL||10 ft / 3 m|
Seychelles International Airport (IATA: SEZ, ICAO: FSIA) or Aéroport de la pointe Larue as it is known locally is on the island of Mahé, Seychelles near the capital city of Victoria. It forms part of the administrative districts of La pointe Larue (terminal area), Cascade/Providence (in the North) and Anse aux pins (in the south and military base).
The airport is 11 km southeast of the capital and is accessible by the Victoria-Providence Highway. There is frequent service from the bus station in Victoria, with taxi ranks outside the terminal available to all locations on Mahé Island and several tour operator's coach services – namely Creole Travel Services and Mason's travel – which also links passengers to the ferry terminal at the Old Port (Vieux port) for inter-island ferry services and to the New Port (Nouveau port) for cruise holidays.
A domestic terminal is a short walking distance north of the international terminal and offers inter-island flights with a peak of a departure every 10–15 minutes at busy times which corresponds with international arrivals/departures and every 30 minutes at other times. There is plan to link the airport with a light railway/tram system which will run along the east coast of Mahé island due to the high transportation density of this area. Companies were invited to tender in 2007 by the government.
A cargo terminal is situated south of the international terminal and handles freight from all international and domestic movements; it is run by the national airline Air Seychelles. A military base of the Seychelles Public Defence Force (SPDF) exists at the southeastern end of runway 13 in the south on an island joined with Mahé at the construction of the airport.
The opening of the Seychelles International Airport took place on 20 March 1972 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Wilkenair of Kenya had, however, already started a ferry service between Mombasa and Mahé via Diego Suarez in Madagascar and Astove Island (Seychelles) using a twin engine Piper Navajo the previous year. It operated to the Seychelles once a week.
It was followed by East African Airways in November 1971 and Luxair in December of the same year. A BOAC Super VC10 was the first jet aircraft to land at Seychelles International Airport on 4 July 1971. At the time of the opening it had a 2987 m runway and a control tower. Ground handling and all other airport operations were carried out by the DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation).
In 1972 John Faulkner Taylor founded the first local aircraft company called Air Mahé, which operated a Piper PA-34 Seneca between Praslin, Fregate and Mahé Islands. This was later replaced by a Britten Norman BN-2AIII. By 1974, over 30 airlines were flying to the Seychelles. Ground handling and all airport operations were being carried out by Aviation Seychelles Company, a company formed in 1973.
Construction works for the substantial expansion of the Seychelles International Airport started in July 1980. Due to the continuous increase in passenger traffic, a terminal building was built that could cater for 400 more arriving and 400 more departing passengers at any time. Parking bays for up to six aircraft were catered for as well as a light aircraft parking area capable of handling five aircraft.
In 1981 there was a gun battle at Seychelles International Airport, as Irishman Mike Hoare led a team of 43 South African mercenaries masquerading as holidaying Rugby players in a coup attempt in what is known as The Seychelles Affair. After their hidden weapons were discovered on arrival a skirmish ensued, with most of the mercenaries later escaping in a hijacked Air India plane.
The years 2005/2006 brought further development to civil aviation in the Seychelles. The Civil Aviation Authority Act was enacted on 4 April 2006 for the corporatisation of the Directorate of Civil Aviation to Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority. Works started to upgrade and extend the terminal building, which has been further extended to handle at least five medium to large aircraft (e.g., Boeing 767). Six small size aircraft (e.g. Boeing 737).
Further parking areas were made available to the north-east of the airport to handle the parking of charter, business and long stay aircraft (e.g. some European flights arrive in the morning from 7am but do not depart until 10pm onwards. This reduces jet-lag as any flight that leaves Seychelles at night will get to most Western European cities in the early morning and vice versa from the European cities to the Seychelles; it also provides sufficient rest for operating crew.
Role in the War on Terror
The airport has been home to unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the United States Air Force and possibly the Central Intelligence Agency for operations over Somalia and the Horn of Africa. President of Seychelles James Michel apparently welcomed the presence of US drones in Seychelles to combat Somalian piracy and terrorism, dating back to at least August 2009. At least two MQ-9 Reaper UAVs have crashed into the Indian Ocean near the airport since December 2011.
Airlines and destinations
-  from DAFIF
- Zenko, Micah (27 March 2012). "We Can't Drone Our Way to Victory in Afghanistan". Foreign Policy.
- Thande, George (4 April 2012). "Drone crashes in Seychelles, second in four months". Reuters. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "US Drone Crashes on Seychelles Runway". ABC News. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "Secret bases mark step-up in War on Terror". UPI. 22 September 2011.
- Values used from publication: Seychelles in Figures 2007
- Values used from publication: Seychelles in Figures 2008
- Values used from publication: Seychelles in Figures 2009
- Values used from publication: Seychelles in Figures 2010
- Values used from publication: Seychelles in Figures 2011
- "Offices & GSAs head Office." Air Seychelles. Retrieved on 29 January 2011 "Head Office Air Seychelles Ltd Head Office International Airport P.O. Box 386 Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles."