By Constantinos Psillides
A COMMERCIAL flight of Turkish low-cost airline Pegasus veered off course on Tuesday and flew over the presidential palace due to a fault in the VOR air traffic control system at Tymbou (Ercan) airport in the north, along with bad weather, the Republic’s civil aviation department (DCA) said yesterday.
The Boeing 737-800 was spotted flying at low altitude over the palace, at around noon on Tuesday. The plane set a course over Aglantzia and Agios Dometios and eventually landed at Tymbou.
The presidential palace is in a no-flight-zone, something which the pilot of the Turkish aircraft ignored. Ignoring flight regulations set by Cyprus authorities was no surprise as Turkey doesn’t recognise the Republic and Ercan is not a recognised point of entry to the country.
“The pilot probably got scared of the bad weather and veered towards Nicosia a little more than usual. This is expected since their VOR system went down.”
On October 1, Ercan disabled the airport’s VHF Omni Directional Radio Range (VOR) navigational system, a ground short-range radio that enables aircraft to determine their position and stay on course by receiving radio signals.
The temporary suspension of the system meant that pilots have had to fly by sight when taking off and landing resulting in aircraft flying off their usual course, a DCA official told the Cyprus Mail on October 12.
The VOR was supposed to be operational by early November.
“Pilots employ visual flight. When taking off from Ercan they have to pass over the Pentadaktylos mountains and without a ground navigational system they tend to veer a little to the left so they can gain more altitude when they approach the mountain. That’s why some people reported seeing more planes,” said the official.
Airplanes flying to the north do not submit their flight plan to Eurocontrol, the organisation based in Brussels that coordinates air traffic control for all of Europe, but submit it directly to Ercan.
Air traffic at Ercan comes exclusively from Turkey. DCA recorded 170 take offs and landings at the airport from January to May this year.