The History of Nicosia Airport

The Years to Independence

The newly created national flag carrier, Cyprus Airways, began operating from Nicosia on the 18th April 1948 using three Douglas DC3 aircraft.
Their routes included Rome, London (via Athens), Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul and Haifa.



The postcard is captioned "Cyprus Airways flying over Kyrenia"
Image displayed courtesy of the amazing Airline Postcard Database


A terminal was built near to the wartime control tower to serve the increasing numbers of passengers who were using Nicosia Airport. 
It was opened on Empire Day 1949 (24th May) by Governor Reginald Fletcher (1st Baron Winster). 
The building was described as the "island's pride" and the opening speech was "dramatically punctuated by the roar of Vampires and Dakotas".
The new terminal was "second to none in the Middle East" and included a restaurant, "Happy Landings" and boasted "lavatories as comfortable as they can be made".



Besides Cyprus Aiways and BEA, regional carriers such as Middle East Airlines and Misrair (Egypt) were frequent callers.



A DC3 of Middle East Airlines in Nicosia airport and a Vickers Viking of Misrair at Almaza, Cairo
Click the image or this link for a larger picture in a new window

The Misr Viking image is courtesy of Ed Coates' Civil Aircraft Photograph Collection


The RAF continued to use the airfield alongside their civilian counterparts and all air traffic control functions were operated by RAF personnel.
An enlargement of the MEA photograph (above left) shows an RAF Valetta parked nearby.



An RAF Valetta parked near to the civilian terminal....the military Air Movements Offices and a NAAFI were next to the terminal

Nicosia Airport was used by the RAF to fly in troop reinforcements and October 1955 saw the arrival of the Gordon Highlanders.



A Handley Page Hastings lands in Nicosia with soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders....13 would later die in a mountain forest fire in June 1956

The airport was not immune from the volatile political situation in Cyprus and there were several incidents of sabotage.



The remains of a Handley Page Hermes IV operated by Skyways Limited (March 3rd 1956) and a Cyprus Airways Dakota (April 27th 1956)
Both bombs were thought to be the work of the EOKA organisation

Click the image or this link for a larger version (in a new window)

The Dakota is often described as an RAF aircraft but a Pathé News film sequence of the incident briefly shows the tail bearing the Cyprus Airways logo.



The images above show the tail of the bombed Dakota and an earlier picture of the same plane in service in 1955
Amazingly, much of the damaged aircraft was returned to Fields Aircraft Services at Tollerton airfield in the UK where it was rebuilt and then sold to the French Air Force.
The Dakota image above and the additional information is courtesy of Dave Welch and the ABPIC website


Nicosia was heavily involved with the Suez Crisis in early November 1956. RAF Akrotiri, whose main runway had only recently been completed, was mainly a base for fighter, photo reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft and Nicosia was used for troop transport and supplies.
‚ÄčAn excellent summary of RAF Akrotiri's development can be watched from this link.
Early on the 5th of November 1956 the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment boarded their aircraft to take part in 'Operation Musketeer'.
Three companies and their supplies were airlifted from Nicosia aboard 26 Hastings and Valettas and protected by RAF fighters and ground attack aircraft.



A number of Hastings (in the far distance) and, closer to the camera, Valetta aircraft parked in Nicosia during the Suez crisis

On the 10th November 1956 a Hawker Hunter (WP180) from 1 Sqn was damaged beyond repair when an EOKA timebomb exploded.
The bomb was reportedly either attached to the undercarriage leg of the Hunter or concealed within the aicraft's wheel well.



No images of the destroyed aircraft are known to exist but it was an F5 variant........the image above is the slightly later F8
Their main role in Cyprus, due to a short operating range, was local air defence


In November 1958 a bomb exploded in the NAAFI at Nicosia airfield which killed two airmen and seriously injured a further seven.
This caused the dismissal of Greek Cypriots employed on the base.



The NAAFI was one of a large number of prefabricated buildings called 'Caywoods'
The pictures above show the camp and the bombed NAAFI building
Click the image or this link for a larger version in a new window


In 1959, to handle ever increasing passenger numbers, the existing terminal was enlarged and the parking apron area was increased in size.



The enlarged terminal which was completed in 1959



Work to increase the size of the parking apron (click the image or this link for a larger version)



The newly enlarged terminal on the RHS with a busy apron of aircraft (picture most probably taken from the control tower)
The smaller buildings belong to the RAF.......the wartime parachute hut (building B13) is on the extreme RHS with the flight office building below

The curved Nissen hut on the LHS, one of the Air Movement buildings, exists today.....see "The Airport Today"

Alongside the increasing volume of civilian traffic, operational flying continued from RAF Nicosia. In addition to the fixed-wing aircraft mentioned above, from 1959, 103Sqn RAF operated the Bristol Sycamore helicopter from RAF Nicosia.



The image shows the control tower at Nicosia Airport with an RAF Sycamore helicopter coming into land with a civilian airliner passing overhead......exact date unknown
Note: With the need for helicopters diminishing, 103 Sqn was reduced to 1563 Flight in July 1963 and moved to RAF Akrotiri in April 1963.


The expanded and increasingly popular airport was now in a position to look to the future (and independence) with real confidence.