Thursday, June 20, 2024 Civil/General Aviation » Aircraft Maintenance » Safi  


Amongst the aircraft being worked on, or awaiting overhaul work when Miaco ceased operations, were four DHC-4 Caribou (9J-NAB, N84893, N84897 and N84899) belonging to New-Cal Aviation, of New Jersey, US. NCA International started operations in October 1985.


Meanwhile, another company would “enjoy” a brief life. Miaco ‘86 Aviation Ltd was a government controlled entity set up on 22 July 1986, to carry out engine repair work. Miaco ’86 didn’t survive for long, for in 1989, Lindhholme Ltd, operators of Air Atlantique of Coventry, UK, took over, renaming it CFS Engines on 25 January 1991. A specialist company in engine repairs, CFS also tried attracting other companies’ custom, which included Classic Air of Switzerland and Instone of the UK. But CFS wasn’t destined to survive for long, and on 27 November 1996, the company was struck off the Register of Partnerships.


Set up in 1978 as a joint venture between Malta and Libya, Med-Avia operated a fleet of four Casa 212s (9H-AAP/Q/R/S). The company operated out of an Air Malta hangar at Luqa Airport. With the imposition of sanctions by the UN against Libya for its role in the explosion in mid-air of a Pan Am B.747 over Lockerbie, the 212s were dispatched to Libya where they continued to operate. With the lifting of sanctions against Libya, Med-Avia became more active, its Casa 212s once again becoming a familiar sight at Luqa.

Between 93/94, Air Malta wanted the hangar for its use. At Safi, plans were made for the construction of a hangar for the company. The eventual move meant that aircraft, like MIACO and NCA, had to cross over from the airport into Safi. Extra hassle for the employees, but a god-send for us photographers.


This table will continue to be updated, both as regards past and current movements. Maltese registered aircraft (9H-) will not be listed, since they have nowhere else to go for maintenance purposes. Exceptions will be made for first time visits and/or colour scheme changes. Information has been indexed by just aircraft and registration. This has been done to avoid placing the same aircraft at different parts of the table because of a change in ownership. Reims/Cessna aircraft are listed under Cessna. Like the Deliveries page, this table has now been split into three sections: piston/turbo props, helicopters and jets. This should make searching for a particular aircraft, or class of aircraft, easier. Since Med-Avia starting operating out of Safi in 1992, it isn’t always possible to state whether an aircraft visited NCA or Med-Avia, and no attempt has been made to differentiate between the two companies. Aircraft, therefore, have been listed as entering Safi, rather than mentioning the company by name. The arr/dep column lists the dates when the aircraft arrived/departed to/from Malta, as the aircraft sometimes was parked overnight at the airport, before entering Safi or departing Malta. As usual, the compilation of this information wouldn’t be possible without the use of Malta Aviation Society records. I am also indebted to a fellow MAS member, Frank Scerri, who for a number of months used to compile this information for a page in Take-Off, the MAS newsletter.

Links to pages.




Safi history

I received an e-mail from a Dutch enthusiast.

I do not fully understand the current situation surrounding Malta's Luqa and (former?) Safi Airport, and I am hoping you are willing to explain.

As far as I understand Luqa and Safi were two separate airports during WW2. But at some point in time (during the late 1970s?) the two airports merged into Luqa International Airport, and as far as I know Safi ceased to exist as a separate airport.

Yet many Malta aviation enthusiasts are still referring to Safi as if it still is an operational airport. For instance, a quote from a 2003 copy of Malta Aviation Society's publication "Take Off" mentions the arrival of B707 9L-LDU on Oct-2003, to which the magazine refers to as "the biggest aircraft destined for Safi landed on this day".

I have checked your web site, and although it carries a very nice article on Luqa International Airport, this article in no way mentions the merger of Luqa and Safi, nor Safi's current status.

For people like me, who are not from Malta, this is a confusing situation. Would you mind explaining the situation to me? Does Safi perhaps only refer to the Med-Avia/NCA facility (maybe because strictly speaking that facility is outside the boundaries of Luqa international airport?)

Your confusion is understandable, so here's a brief history of Safi, taken from the book, Military Aviation in Malta G.C. 1915-1993 by John F. Hamlin.

Work on safi strip started in January 1941, runway 32/14 and 27/09. 32/14 was completed by February 1943, RAF Safi was formed on 20 March and a parade held on 15 May, 1943. By the end of June 43, both runways had been widened, so their final measurements were 3,600ft x 240 feet, or 1,100m by 73m.

All flying ceased on 31 Oct 1943, except for the occasional aircraft making an emergency or crash landing. On 8 November, RAF Safi was disbanded, but 137 Maintenance Unit (MU) moved to Safi from Kalafrana on 27 June 1946, and remained there until eventual disbandment (date unknown).

When work started on widening and lengthening runway 32/14 AT LUQA AIRPORT, the runways at Safi practically disappeared and one cannot really tell their exact location.

Since September 1978, when the Safi was leased to the then MIACO company, a taxiway between the runway and the perimeter fence, as well as a gate, had to be constructed. Aircraft would thus taxi down runway 14/32, turn onto the taxi-way, and wait for the gate to be opened. Company personnel would then stop all vehicles, to allow the aircraft to taxi over to MIACO (or Med-Avia nowadays). The same procedure would be used for the aircraft to depart.

This is what we mean by aircraft entering Safi. The procedure has remained the same since the first MIACO aircraft moved in, except that today, there is a better gate system, and a traffic light system warns motorists before a bar is to be lowered to close off the road, which is much safer for the employees.

Although we know when MIACO ceased operations (February 1985), when NCA started operating (Oct '85), and when Med-Avia moved to Safi (approx. 1994) I'm not exactly sure what happened to NCA. To all intents and purposes, it seems to exists only on paper, and Med-Avia seems to be the sole player at Safi.

You mentioned "the arrival of B707 9L-LDU on Oct-2003”, to which the magazine refers to as "the biggest aircraft destined for Safi landed on this day". "Landed” as used here refers to Malta International Airport. The aircraft was then towed into Safi.
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