שדה התעופה הישן של אילת
Arabic: مطار إيلات
|Operator||Israel Airports Authority|
|Focus city for|
|Elevation AMSL||42 ft / 13 m|
Source: Israel Airports Authority
Eilat Airport (Hebrew: שְׂדֵה הַתְּעוּפָה אֵילַת, Namal HaTe'ufa Eilat; also known as J. Hozman Airport; Arabic: مطار إيلات (IATA: ETH, ICAO: LLET)) is a defunct airport located in Eilat, Israel. It was named after Arkia Airlines founder Yakov Hozman (Jacob Housman) and is located in the center of Eilat adjacent to Route 90 (The Arava Road). Due to its short runway and limited capacity it mainly handled domestic flights from Tel Aviv and Haifa Airports, while Uvda International Airport, located some 60 km north of the city handled Eilat's international carriers.
Following the inauguration of Ramon airport located approximately 20 km north of the city, Eilat Airport ceased operations on 18 March 2019. The new, larger airport now handles all of Eilat's domestic and international flights.
Eilat Airport was established in 1949 by the Israel Air Force, following the 1947–1949 Palestine war. During its early years, the airport aimed to establish a comprehensive set of connections to towns across the country, most notably with Tel Aviv and Haifa. Consequently, a regular route from Eilat to Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) was started. Soon after, a route to Haifa Airport became operational. In December 1950, following their establishment, Arkia Israel Airlines became the largest domestic operator at Eilat Airport, taking the position of the former companies Eilata and Aviron. To this day, they retain this position. Later, in 1964 the runway was expanded to 1500 m, and a passenger terminal was built. Five years later, the runway was further expanded increasing the length to 1900 m. In 1975, Eilat Airport started to attract Scandinavian airlines. The first international flight arrival to Eilat, of the Danish airline, Sterling Airlines landed in this year. Since then, many international routes have been established directly linking Eilat with Europe, however, the airport is still unable to handle landings of large aircraft which have to fly to Uvda International Airport.
In the 1994 Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan it was decided that operations were supposed to be transferred from Eilat Airport to Aqaba Airport. The original plan was to rename Aqaba Airport as Aqaba-Eilat Peace International Airport. The agreement was never followed, however, and an agreement between the two countries in March 1997, stipulated that domestic flights would continue to use Eilat Airport, whilst no further action to move international flights took place.
In August 2005, a Katyusha rocket fired from Jordan landed near a taxi traveling just 15 yards (14 m) from the airport perimeter fence. On August 8, 2013, the Israeli Military instructed the airport to cancel all landings and departures after a security assessment. Militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula had fired rockets towards the city in recent years, but it was not immediately clear if that was the reason for the closure.
The airport in its last years of service
During its latest period of service, Eilat Airport sustained peak loads concentrated into Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On Thursdays and Sundays, flights were handled in a period of a few hours in the mornings and on Saturdays only the evening hours were used. Often there were days when 10,000 passengers on 120 flights were channeled through the 2,800 m2 terminal, which counted as one of the highest peak loads worldwide in this category.
International passenger traffic decreased from magnitude of 20,000 a year in late 2000s to 5,000 a year in 2010s. Most international traffic to Eilat was handled by Ovda Airport instead, while Eilat Airport handled about 1.5 million domestic passengers per year. A little more than half of them flew to or from Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv (which itself was closed several months after the closing of Eilat Airport), while the rest flew mostly to Ben Gurion Airport, with smaller numbers to Haifa Airport.
Although the airport was capable of handling Boeing 767 aircraft, for large numbers of these aircraft, significant investment would have been needed. Consequently, the largest aircraft that regularly flew to the airport were Boeing 757. The main problem at the airport was the lack of ramp space, with just two parking positions for large aircraft. As a result, El Al operated regular shuttle flights to Ben Gurion International Airport carrying passengers from around the world on 757s and 737s.
The small size of the airport is perhaps best illustrated with the fact that a Boeing 757 could not taxi past another aircraft to parking positions. As a result, controllers were responsible not only for ensuring that valuable space is utilised, but also for ensuring that other aircraft were kept circling until larger aircraft were parked. Despite these limitations, the airport successfully handled ten to twenty times more traffic than airports of a comparable size. It is for this reason that plans to relocate the airport were so important in the short-term scale. In 2006, a NIS 5.5 million renovation programme of Eilat Airport's terminal and runway was undertaken, designed to sustain the airport until it was replaced.
End of operations
Since the beginning of the 1990s the authorities in Eilat have considered relocating the airport out of the city boundaries. There were numerous reasons behind this idea. Primarily, the fact that safety would be improved as in its current location, there is the chance of aircraft crashing into buildings in the city. Other reasons were the pure value of the land which the airport occupies, and the fact that the airport is dividing the city of Eilat into two parts with the hotels and tourist areas on one side, and the residential buildings on the other.
On 24 July 2011 the Israeli cabinet approved the construction of a new airport in Timna Valley, 18 km (11 mi) north of Eilat, next to Be'er Ora. Ramon Airport opened in 2019, named in memory of the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon (who died in 2003) and his son Assaf Ramon (who died in 2009 when his F-16 fighter jet crashed over the West Bank). It has a 3,600 m (11,800 ft) runway, longer than the runway in Eilat, which allows large aircraft to land.
Following the inauguration of Ramon Airport, Eilat Airport ceased all operations on March 18, 2019. Its land, which is located in the heart of the city, is expected to be used for real estate development.
|Year||Total passengers||Total aircraft movements|
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Media related to Eilat Airport at Wikimedia Commons
- Airport information for LLET at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
- Airport information for ETH / LLET at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective October 2006).
- Current weather for LLET at NOAA/NWS
- Accident history for ETH / LLET at Aviation Safety Network