MIAMI – Europe’s Airport Panorama is full of airports. Built during the second half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st, they were later abandoned.
These airports were to be medium gateways to serve areas far from already existing airports. This period until the advent of high-speed trains was their golden era.
Until the end of political funding given to let the airline fly in-out from these airports, this was not always on the profitable side.
After important spending reviews done by the local government, their activities soon ended. They became constructions abandoned in the void or used in an underestimated manner.
During my flight training across Spain, I pass by many airports of these kinds.
The country built these airports to serve isolated areas not covered by fast connections to important cities. They had enough long runways to accommodate the queen of the sky, her majesty the Boeing 747.
During that time, these airports had to reinvent themselves to make the past investments profitable. They needed to continue open to serve the areas without losing jobs linked with their presence in their territories.
Few of these airports are located in the North-East, Center side of Spain.
Between Catalunya and Aragón
Lleida-Alguaire Airport (ILD), located 150km west from Barcelona, opened in 2010 with a project amounting to €90m. The airport was to serve 395,000 passengers per year.
Unfortunately, due to several problems, both due to its location and the arrival of the AVE (Spain’s High-Speed Service Provider) in the city of Lleida, ILD was abandoned more and more, relegating it to 2/3 weekly flights and a few charters.
The future of these airports was certainly destined for abandonment, with public opinion defining them as a public shame. The managers of the Aeroports De Catalunya (the airport’s operator company) have worked hard to redefine it as an aeronautical industrial hub.
Not forgetting the dream of attracting passenger planes, Aeroports De Catalunya sought possible companies wishing to establish themselves at the airport. Their intention would be to open companies focused on aircraft maintenance and a base for aeronautical training operations.
Two companies answered the call, initially one for maintenance, Aeronpark, and the other for aeronautical training, BAA Training.
The two companies began operations at the airport, leading it to became an important industrial center for these kinds of operations.
Moreover, the peak came when the Boeing 737 MAX-8 groundings began. Many companies started to search for suitable airports where to store their aircraft during the remainder of the crisis.
Norwegian Airlines (DY) and Iceland Air (FI) parked a total of nine Boeing 73 MAX-8 at ILD.
Meanwhile, Aeronpark sent one Airbus A340 and two Boeing 747 to ILD for dismantlement.
Among the activities established at ILD, Aeroports De Catalunya decided to enhance further developments of the airport, presenting a new masterplan for future development with an investment of €5.5m.
The future construction will see the second-largest hangar in Catalonia, with 6,400 square meters to allocate aircraft types Boeing 737 and Airbus 320, or a Boeing 777 or Airbus 340.
Beyond its usual activity, ILD has also become the setting for fairs related to the aeronautical sector and air festivals in recent years, such as the Lleida Air Challenge and La Fiesta del Cielo.
The Lleida-Alguaire facilities have also become a film set, with almost forty shoots that have so far generated an income of nearly €300,000.
In addition, the Lleida airport has been the scene of a short film and music videos such as the hit ‘Beautiful People’ by British musician Ed Sheeran.
Europe Biggest Boneyard
Opened in 2013, with the idea of creating an airport unique of its kind in Europe, Teruel Airport (TEV) was built with the main objective to be a logistics hub.
With more than 100 aircraft parked, waiting for the aeronautical world to return to Coronavirus pre-crisis levels, TEV has established itself as a reference point for the storage of aircraft.
During my training, on a torrid day in July I decided to visit Teruel airport, far 1h30m from my base airport, ILD.
The flight got across the desert area of the Aragon, along the border between Aragon and the Comunitat Valenciana.
After this long cross-country flight, I arrived in Teruel, as soon as I reach the Visual Report Point (VRP) November at which you will enter into the Teruel ATZ (Airdrome Traffic Zone), I start my Air to Air communication in order to coordinate with other traffic in the same area and proceed to an active runway.
As soon as I arrived in Teruel, about 25km from the airport, I was impressed by its size.
With more than 100 aircraft parked in the west part of the airport, TEV looks like a large parking lot in the middle of the desert where you can spot all types of aircraft existing nowadays.
After the standard frequency calls, I join the right downwind of runway 36 which flies exactly over the big boneyard where the parked airplanes are.
While admiring the quantity and quality of the airplanes, my little Tecnam P2002JF (SIRA) continued downwind until the turn for the final runway 36.
During landing, due to the big airplanes parked nearby the runway, it looks like landing in Dubai (DXB), having in my line of sight two Airbus A340 of Lufthansa (LH) and 2 A330 of Ethiad (EY).
As soon as I vacated Runway 36 via taxiway Tango, I proceed to the Refuelling Area, literally between an A330 and A340. You have to pass below their wings to get there.
A Talk with TEV General Director
During refueling, I had the chance to speak with TEV General Director Alejandro Ibrahim Perera. He explained the projects expected in the near future for TEV.
Teruel Airport will see this year the biggest expansion since its opening in 2013. A painting hangar is due, plus three small aircraft buildings and the extension of the apron and parking lot currently under construction, TEV will reach the maximum capacity of 300 operators with an investment of €30m.
Among the aforementioned project, the biggest one for TEV is the construction of a hangar with the capacity to contain two Airbus A380.
Construction will start next August with a budget of €20.5m.
The next project to be completed is a 2,000-square meter logistics facility with an overhead crane, a service that is not currently available and is demanded by companies for handling large aircraft parts.
This equipment, whose execution was approved at the last meeting of the Consortium, will cost €800,000.