Szczytno-Szymany International Airport
|Szczytno-Szymany International Airport
Międzynarodowy Port Lotniczy
|IATA: SZY – ICAO: EPSY
|Operator||Porty Lotnicze „Mazury – Szczytno” Sp. z o.o.|
|Elevation AMSL||463 ft / 141 m|
Szczytno-Szymany International Airport (IATA: SZY, ICAO: EPSY) is a currently inoperative Polish regional airport located in the village Szymany, some 10 km from the center of the city of Szczytno in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship in the North of Poland. It is the only airport in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. As of 2007 the airport does not have any year-round scheduled service, and in fact is not open for traffic. When active, it catered mostly to general aviation, charter flights and seasonally scheduled connections in the summer. It used to have scheduled passenger service to Warsaw.
Olsztyn (175,000, agglomeration 270,000 inhabitants), the capital of Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship (with 1.5 million inhabitants) lacks any international airport, apart from the one in Szczytno-Szymany, and that does not serve any international flights at the moment. The airport has a runway 2000 meters long and 60 meters wide, a broken ILS system, and is located in Szymany in Mazury region. Its trade name is: Szczytno –Szymany, although both are small, unknown localities. It has been proposed to the regional authorities and to the airport management to rebrand the airport to a better name “Olsztyn/ Mazury”, that would better encapsulate the whole region of Mazury and its lakes, which are more well known.
The airport is situated 56 kilometres to the south of Olsztyn, at the border with more densely populated Mazowsze region. There are also other larger towns (50-60 thousand people) in the 60 kilometres distance of this airport, such as Mława, Ciechanów, Ostrołęka. This airport has in its catchment area a population of 2-2.5 million people in both voivodeships.
In order to provide easy access, it is planned to introduce a rail link to the airport, using a rail branch, and a tendering procedure for the upgrade of the rail line has been announced. A journey time to the centre of Olsztyn would amount to 45–50 minutes if the rail infrastructure to the airport was upgraded. Such an airport link is being prepared by the authorities. In the future, a rail link to Białystok through Ostrołęka, and another to Ełk could be organised by putting railcars on unused rail lines.
Airlines and destinations
- past destinations: Warsaw
- none (For several years now, the airport has not had any scheduled passenger traffic, and presently, serves no traffic at all.)
The airfield was built in the 1950s for use by the military. It was important for being near to the intelligence facility in Stare Kiejkuty. In 1996 the airfield was declared surplus to military requirements and transferred to the agency responsible for selling off military property to civilians: (Agencja Mienia Wojskowego). The agency leased it to the company Porty Lotnicze "Mazury-Szczytno” which planned to turn it into a civilian airport. Between 1996 and 2003, in the summer months, the airport had regular, weekly connections to Warsaw and cities in Germany. The company came close to bankruptcy in 2004 and appears to be deeply in debt. The concrete surface of the airport is sometimes rented out for various events. At present air traffic is suspended. Various sources of financing are being sought for upgrading the airport and again opening it to traffic.
Involvement in extraordinary renditions and secret CIA prison
The airport gained attention in the press in 2005, when it was alleged to have a connection with a so-called black site involved in the CIA's network of extraordinary renditions. Terrorist suspects were to be secretly held, and even tortured, in violation of Polish law, by the CIA. Flight records show that an airplane leased by the CIA flying from Kabul to Guantanamo Bay made a stop in Szymany. Officials from the airport have confirmed that some of these flights bypassed normal customs-clearing procedures, and that during the time of these landings, the airport regularly received visits by cars bearing markings associated with the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence training school outside the nearby village of Stare Kiejkuty.
As recently as November, 2006, the European Parliament investigative commission led by Claudio Fava had been told, when asked for the flight logs of 11 specific flights observed to have transited through Szymany, that "[the records] have [not] been retained, have been faxed and destroyed, and finally said to have been saved in an unspecified place." The commission report also quotes Szymany officials as confirming six occasions in 2002 and 2003 when Gulfstream jets bearing civilian registration numbers had landed at the airport, bypassing customs clearance. Airport officials had been directly ordered not to approach the aircraft, and vehicles bearing military registration numbers affiliated with the nearby base at Stare Kiejkuty awaited the arrival of each aircraft.
In June 2008 a New York Times article claimed, citing unnamed CIA officers, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was held in a secret facility in Poland near Szymany Airport and it was there where he was interrogated and that waterboarding was applied before Khalid Sheikh Mohammed began to cooperate.
In February 2010 Polish officials recanted previous denials, and admitted that at least six CIA flights passed through Szymany in 2003.
See: Black site
- Official website - currently, a banner in the headline reads: "działalność lotniskowa czasowo zawieszona/aerodrome closed for air traffic" last accessed 24 June 2007.
- Brian Knowlton, "Report Rejects European Denial Of C.I.A. Prisons", New York Times, November 29, 2006.
- Inside a 9/11 Mastermind’s Interrogation
- Ian Treynor. Poland admits role in CIA rendition programme
- Official website of the Szczytno-Szymany International Airport (Polish) (English)
- Campaign for the revitalisation of the airport
- Airport information for EPSY at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.
- Satellite photo via Google Maps
- Photos on airliners.net