EU: More On Seaplane Flying In Malta And Gozo
Guest Editorial, written by Mark Anthony Said — Malta is rich in history, boasting of the oldest megalithic temples, underground prehistoric burial sites, Roman villas, forts and a city built by the Knights of the Order of St. John and fortified further by the British. It is definitely worth a visit together with Sicily and Rome.
We speak Maltese which is a Semitic based language and English. Italian is also spoken very fluently by most. For the record, Malta is the only country that was presented with a medal by King George VI, in our case the George Cross in 1942 (as depicted on our Flag), and a ‘Scroll of Honour’ by President Roosevelt in 1943, both for wartime exploits. Both are proudly displayed in Valletta, our Capital.
The Islands of Malta and Gozo also have a rich aviation history tied to the fact that the archipelago served as a British military base for almost two hundred years up until 1979. Seaplanes were first based on the Island during the First World War and civilian and military seaplanes continued to operate from here till the late 1950’s. There were two major seaplane bases, one at Kalafrana at the southern tip of the island, and the other at St Paul’s bay on the east coast.
This is where our Patron Saint was shipwrecked in 60 AD. Seaplanes also operated from the majestic Grand Harbour with the high bastion walls making it a very exciting enterprise. Harbour Air Malta, Ltd. flew a DHC3T from there for a couple of years before winding down operations in 2014. The Harbor is very popular with cruise liner operators.
During the Second World War, Malta became an unsinkable aircraft carrier with six land based airfields, including one on the sister island of Gozo which was constructed in record time by American Engineers and used temporarily by US Army Air Force Spitfires, yes Spitfires, of the hard hitting 31st Fighter Group during the invasion of Sicily.
Microlight aircraft (Ultralights in your case) operate in between Boeing and Airbus out of Luqa International Airport which is the only airport on the Island. The Islands Microlight Club is very active and there are two flight schools. My amphibian ultralight aircraft is kept in a hangar on the same airport but I am preparing a trailer for the coming summer season so that I can take it home on occasions.
The rest of my flying is from crystal clear open water as there are no lakes. The Civil Aviation Directorate (similar to your FAA) is very proactive and has a positive attitude towards anything that flies. Seaplanes are allowed to operate anywhere around the Islands but a prior permit from the Harbor Master is required to operate from one of the main harbors.
A flight to the Island of Sicily takes less than an hour and the Sicilians are more than happy to accommodate and support any Daedalus follower. It is a pity that Libya – which has one of the longest coasts in the Mediterranean – is in turmoil, as it would be a great place to visit especially in a flying boat.
Transport Malta whom I work for, is considering modifying one or two boat jetties on the east coast of Malta in order to further support flying boats and seaplanes. ‘There is great potential for seaplanes in Malta’ – this statement becomes obviously clear if one takes a look at the successful local yachting and boating scenario which is world class. The weather in Malta is a bliss, but it does become windy at times, tourism is at an all time high, and the state of the economy makes even the Chinese and US jealous.
As of today there are three flying boats/seaplanes on the Maltese register – A Polaris Trike Flying Boat, a Fly Synthesis Storch Amphibian and my Catalina from the same Italian company. The Catalina is rock steady in water, highly responsive in the air, however the Rotax 582 engine is slightly under-powered. The machine is pilot friendly but requires extra attention when landing on wheels as there are no shock- absorbers.
Having flown in the US, I consider it an ideal machine for the lakes of Florida especially if one intends to go fishing as there is ample space for gear. On the other hand, it sits low in the water so my guess is that it could make a perfect alligator sunbathing lounge. I hope you enjoy the pictures I have attached and if one of the readers is headed to Malta, we’re here and ready to meet and greet!
Mark Anthony Said is a retired Colonel in the Armed Forces of Malta. He used to fly helicopters and fixed wing aircraft and now works for the Civil Aviation Directorate. Twenty years ago he founded the Island Microlight Club. Having trained more than a hundred pilots and put over thirty aircraft on the Maltese register, the Club is still going strong and has several hangars on the airport.
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