The History of Nicosia Airport

The Military Side

Nicosia Airport was used by the RAF to fly in troop reinforcements for anti-EOKA operations 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

In April 1956, the Fleet Air Arm began anti-smuggling operations from RAF Nicosia initially using three Gannet AS1 aircraft from 847 Naval Air Squadron.
(Illegal arms were being smuggled into Cyprus by both Greek & Turkish Cypriots)



A Gannet AS4 version landing at RAF Nicosia
Image copyright of Glyn Ramsden (permission applied for)


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.
The written-off of the aircraft was sold to a film company and used in the making of "High Flight" with Ray Milland.
(Available to watch on YouTube........the short RAF Nicosia sequence starts at approximately 1hr 20mins)





Hunter WP180 was used in a dramatic sequence at the end of the film which appears to have been filmed at RAF Nicosia



The 'injured pilot' is carried to safety past a significant number of Sycamore helicopters

On the 20th/21st February 1958, the three crew of a Fairey Gannet (anti-smuggling operations) were killed when their aircraft crashed following a night patrol.
It was reported that the Gannet, from 847 Naval Air Squadron, experienced engine problems and crashed whilst attempting to land.



The same year, 847 Squadron lost another Gannet (XA355 "HF-088") on the 22nd August when it crashed short of the runway.......but with no reported loss of life or injuries.

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 a large number 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 December 1958, five Chipmunk aircraft flew counter-insurgency patrols but they proved unsuitable and the unit was disbanded in March 1959.



The five Chipmunk aircraft used for a few months at RAF Nicosia

Embed from Getty Images


The Chipmunks flying anti-insurgency operations in Cyprus (the low wing and poor ground visibility made them unsuitable)

On the 8th December 1958 and Auster AOP.6 VX116 of 653 Squadron flew into power lines three miles east of Nicosia while acting as air cover for a road block. When trying to regain control it crashed into a hillside and burst into flames killing the pilot.

Alongside the increasing volume of civilian traffic, operational and experimental flying continued from RAF Nicosia.
From January to December 1959 the Army/RAF Joint Experimental Helicopter Unit (JEHU) was based in Cyprus. It's role was to develop tactical and technical procedures.

Throughout 1959, 103Sqn RAF (renamed from 284Sqn) operated the Bristol Sycamore helicopter from RAF Nicosia in support of ground operations.



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.