Civilian airport reopens in Tuzla
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — The Tuzla International Airport, which shares a runway with the U.S. military, reopened Wednesday more than 18 months after closing because of security concerns.
Flights are expected to resume in mid-May at the airport, which was shut down after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The number of flights will increase incrementally, with small business planes paving the way, and regular airline flights beginning later, said Mustafa Terzic, the airport’s general manager.
“This is a significant step toward normalization and the economic development of Tuzla, the Tuzla Canton and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Brig. Gen. James R. Mason, Multinational Brigade North commander.
Feasibility studies for cargo air traffic have already been completed, with cargo flights to begin after accompanying airport buildings are constructed, Terzic said. He added that no timeline has been set on the start of construction.
While Terzic acknowledged that airport revenues will not be major, the true economic potential lies in the possibilities an airport brings to local businesses.
“The citizens of Tuzla Canton got the best gift you can imagine today,” said the canton’s governor, Bajazit Jasarevic.
The governor said he hopes that the reopening of the airport means Bosnian companies that produce fresh food in the northeast part of the country will have good access to foreign markets, and foreign businessmen will have a better access to Tuzla.
“The Tuzla Canton is much closer to Europe and the world starting today,” Jasarevic said.
The airport was run on a shoestring budget when it opened five years ago.
With scarce financial resources, the airport was able to complete the air terminal building, but there was no apron for aircraft parking, taxiing and deicing in the winter season.
Since the airport closed nearly two years ago, a $1.8 million apron has been built, new State Border Service controllers have been trained in airport security and custom control plans have been put in place.
Along with the security plan, the civilian airport authorities and government have developed firefighting, rescue and medical plans.
The expected flights out of the civilian airport should not interfere with the military air traffic, said Air Force Col. Kent Williams, the commander of the 401st Expeditionary Air Base Group.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure it doesn’t cause any problems,” Williams said.
The Air Force air traffic control will manage the civilian planes during landings and takeoffs and while on the runway. Once the airplanes reach the Tuzla apron, they will be handled by Bosnian air traffic authorities.