Aviation connections in the Carpathian region – a meeting of MOBI project partners

by Pylypenko Vadym

On January 28, 2021, a Working meeting within the 1st Partnership Meeting in Hungary of the project “Modern Border Infrastructure – a Successful Carpathian Region” (MOBI), implemented with the financial support of the ENI CBC Programme Hungary-Slovakia-Romania-Ukraine 2014-2020, was held.

The aim of the project is: to create a sustainable platform for effective cross-border mobility of people and goods by improving transport and border infrastructure, strengthening cooperation between governments and professional organizations aimed at developing transport links in the border regions of Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. The project envisages the development of a joint Mobility Plan, which will include regional plans of each border region in the field of transport and border infrastructure, development of railway services, international air services, etc.

The meeting was initiated by the Self-Government of the Szabolcs – Szatmár – Bereg region (Hungary), and was held in combined format of face-to-face meetings and discussions in studios in Ukraine, Hungary and Romania and on-line connections of SK partners and experts and main stakeholders.  Participants of the meeting: representatives of the Self-government of the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg region (Hungary), Košice self-government region (Slovakia), Maramureș County Council (Romania), Territorial Administrative Unit of Satu Mare County (Romania), Road service in Zakarpattia oblast (Ukraine) and International Association of Regional Development Institutions IARDI (Ukraine).

3d panel discussion was focused on “Aviation connections in the Carpathian region”. Capacities of the regional airports and perspectives of the development within Carpathian region, 

Nyíregyháza Airport, Hungary

Dénes Szilágyi, an expert from the Szabolcs – Szatmár – Bereg region (Hungary), presented and described the key aspects of the development of Nyíregyháza Airport and its impact on the development of the Szabolcs – Szatmár – Bereg region.                        Mr. Szilágyi began his speech with a short historical information, from the period of construction of Nyíregyháza Airport , which began in 1927 to the present day.

After the Second World War, the airfield was used for sports purposes as follows: modeling since 1947;

Aeronautics activities began here in 1965: Aeronautics Championship ” Nyírseg Kupa” (1976-1990); The first and still the last Hungarian astronaut began his career here in 1965; the famous AEROTRIGA aerobatic detachment also started its activities here in 1975. The balloon section was started in 1980, and the hang glider section in 1978.

The use of the airfield as an internal destination of MALÉV was started. Li-2 was used for passenger traffic, and Po-2 – for postal flights. In 1952 there was an accident with Li-2. Regular flights were suspended in 1964. During regular flights a meteorological station was also functioning. Subsequently, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Hungarian People’s Republic established an agricultural pilots’ service

Pilot training was initiated by the predecessor of the University of Nyíregyháza in 1968. Practical training of pilots was conducted at Nyíregyháza airfield. Educational activities have determined the direction of development for decades. MALEV also needed civilian pilots. Thus, since 1980, infrastructure development has been carried out mainly for practical training.

In 1982, the runway was modernized. In 1983, the steering tracks were installed. In 1984, a hangar was installed to store the control tower and a corresponding navigation system. Since 1990, the emphasis has shifted to pilot education for commercial aviation. 

Since 1992, pilot training has been transferred to the Hungarian Ministry of Education.  Hungarian agricultural service was discontinued and local pilot instructors established a new company TRÉNER Ltd to continue their practical training. In 1993, the runway was widened (1000 m). Since 1997, the training structure has been based on European standards, which require more training tools. 

In 2001, the concrete runway was equipped with navigation lights from Siemens. Complex system of air navigation equipment was also installed on the north end of the runway. The control tower has been moved to its current position.

In 2005 the simulators for coordination of several crew’s work were also established a in the new facility of the university. Independent training of pilots ceased in 2007 due to a tragic ministerial decree that reduced the number of professions from 400 to 100.

In 2015 the TRÉNER Ltd started the Central European flight academy together with a MartinAir flight academy and flight simulation company. 

In 2016 University refunded the independent pilot education after great work together with the Technical University of Budapest. 

In 2017 the TRÉNER Ltd became independent partner of the Wizz Air in the Wizz Air pilot academy. A post graduate pilot education (3 semesters) was also founded and started by the university in 2017. There are currently 130 student pilot and 60 pilots with the relevant certificates are trained annually. New hangar and training facility (with a new simulator) were developed by the TRÉNER Ltd without any support. The fleet also grown and presently it has 1 Z-526, 4 C -152, 4 Z -142, 9PA-28 and 2 MEP.

For the growing demands the TRÉNER Ltd is employing 35 instructors. Due to the growing demands the number of theoretical instructors also grown. Fortunately, some of them are captains and F/OS at the Wizz Air and they are part-time employed by the Wizz Air and by the university of Nyíregyháza.

There are 80-100 international flights a year, and commercial flights make up about 20 of them. Commercial activities are carried out by transport managers and owners of foreign companies located in the Szabolcs – Szatmár – Bereg region and in the Tokaj area. 

he Nyír airservice Ltd maintains the aircrafts of the TRÉNER Ltd and maintains AN-2, K-26 of Hungarian and foreign operators. Because of good relations with Romanian operators the Nyír Airservice company has 2-line maintenance stations in Romania (Oradea/Nagyvárad, Timișoara/Temesvár). The Nitrogénművek has a very good relationship with the Airbus helicopters Romania (Brașov/Brassó).

Ongoing developments:

1) Automated weather stations;

2) New education form: a high-level vocational training;

3) New airspace structure to ensure more training boxes;

4) Extension and widening of the runway for commuter category aircrafts.

Uzhhorod Airport, Ukraine

Ruslan Liis, Director of Uzhhorod Airport (Ukraine), highlighted the main features and prospects of development of Uzhhorod Airport and aviation in the Carpathian region.

The airport was built by the Czechoslovak Republic in 1929. Its location was very convenient for communication with all European countries. Today Uzhhorod Airport is the only mountain airport in Ukraine. It is important that Uzhhorod Airport is the oldest in Ukraine.

Uzhhorod city and Zakarpattia region are generally the westernmost in Ukraine, and therefore sometimes there are such weather conditions that it is not possible to reach Lviv not only by rail but also by road transport. In 1998 and 2001, there were severe floods in Ukraine, and the only way to provide humanitarian assistance was through Uzhhorod Airport, which means that the airport is of strategic importance to the Ukrainian state. It should be noted that both previous and current governments recognize this fact and contribute to the development of the airport.

In Soviet times, Uzhhorod Airport operated 18 flights per day.  Today, there are some inconveniences that hinder the development of the airport – the main problem is the use of airspace over the Slovak Republic. It should also be noted that to date an agreement has been reached and an agreement has been signed between the Presidents of Ukraine and Slovak Republic, the only thing left is to ratify this agreement at the level of parliaments. After that, it will be possible to use the instrumental approach during landing of the planes. In fact, the Slovak side makes it possible to land and allow the aircraft to take off, but only with a visual approach to landing. 

This factor hinders the development and increase of commercial attractiveness of the airport, so it is not possible to plan regular flights. This year, this issue is expected to be resolved, which in turn will make it possible to use the airport around the clock and in severe weather conditions. There is currently a connection with Ukrainian companies planning flights from Uzhhorod airport. First of all, we see the need to introduce a flight Uzhhorod – Kyiv, and in order to develop business and tourism to introduce flights Uzhhorod – Zaporizhzhia and Uzhhorod – Kharkiv. At the beginning of the tourist season and during the tourist season it is necessary to provide a flight Uzhhorod – Odesa, and if this flight is popular, it will be reformatted as a permanent one.

Uzhhorod Airport has the opportunity to carry out the maintenance of aircraft – negotiations on the maintenance of the An-26 are coming to an end. The length of the runway (2038 m) and the maximum load on it allow to accept medium-sized aircraft at Uzhhorod airport: Boeing-737 and Airbus 320. The location of Uzhhorod airport is very attractive for small aircraft as many small aircraft are planning the flights to the Balkans via Uzhhorod airport.

Kosice International Airport, Slovakia

Tomáš Jančuš, CFO & Deputy CEO at Kosice International Airport highlighted the key aspects of the development of Kosice Airport and its involvement in the development of the region. First of all, it was emphasized that the location of Kosice International Airport is very close to Poland, Hungary and Ukraine.

Košice International Airport’s location is very close to Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. It obtains a good position in the Eastern Slovakia in general. There are several airports in the catchment area of the Košice airport: Krakow airport, Rzeszow airport, Budapest Airport and Debrecen airport. Košice International Airport provides a service for half of Slovakia’s passengers, and for some parts of Hungary, Ukraine and Poland. Regarding the operational issues we were open 24-hours and 7-days per week, at least, that was the situation before the coronavirus. Because of lack of departures, currently only one flight to London (Luton Airport) exists, and the opening hours of the airport are limited too.

The dimension of the airport’s runway is 3100m. The capacity of the airport is 700 000 passengers. It means that we are well established in the operation side. 66% share of Košice Airport belongs to Vienna airport, the remaining part is owned by the Slovak state in particular by the Ministry of Transport of Slovak Republic.

In 2013 we cooperated with Austrian Airlines, Czech Airlines and the Danube wings. Later in that year, the agreement with the Wizz Air, well-known Hungarian low-coster was signed. In 2016 we signed an agreement with LOT Polish Airlines and with Turkish Airlines. That situation was stable until 2018, all carriers were flying, and in that year, we signed an agreement with Eurowings.

All previous years we have been facing ups and downs, because the airline segment is very sensitive for making decisions and new operations, because of lack of guarantees for a stable future. The only guarantee we consider is the strong demand in some destination. It means that the destination will survive either One airline will leave it because of the opportunity to add the other one. 2019 was the best year considering the passengers number – 558 064 in total, but in that year, we faced a negative issue: Turkish Airlines had cancelled the route to Košice because of lack of the aircraft on the other destinations. On the other hand, we have started the operation with Ryanair, the largest low-cost carrier in Europe. From 2013 till 2019 we reached 135% growth of the number of passengers.

Before the COVID-19 restrictions the Košice international airport had the following route map:

  • Up to 11 flight per week with the Czech Airlines
  • Up to 13 flight per week With the Austrian Airlines
  • Up to 11 flights per week with LOT Polish Airlines

With the Airlines mentioned above the Košice international Airport was able to serve more than 300 destinations over the world. The situation was very suitable for the business and local citizens.

Also, the Košice international Airport has been operating with two low-costers:

Via the Wizz air We have been operating up to 7 flight per week to London Luton

From April 2021 we will operate the flight from Košice to Doncaster-Sheffield up to 2 flights per week (if the situation was coronavirus will be better).

Ryanair started to operate the route from Košice to Prague up to 3 flights per week from August 2020. Also, the new route was established from Košice to Liverpool from November 2020 up to 2 flights per week. In addition, we are expecting to begin the operation of the new route from Košice to Warsaw from April 2021 up to 2 Flights per week.

The airport had strong charter traffic, mainly with East of Mediterranean. In total we had 591 charter flights in 2019.

The total number of passengers using the charters constantly grows, and in 2019 the total number of passengers using the charter flight was 184 742.The most popular destination for charter flights is Turkey.

At the conclusion session,  Nataliya Nosa, Project Coordinator and Director of the International Association of IARDI (Ukraine) and Brigitta László, Representative of the Szabolcs – Satmár – Bereg Region and Project Manager (Hungary) thanked all participants and the experts for the expert approach to the development of transport infrastructure in the border areas of Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine and the Carpathian Euroregion in general.

During the discussions, the need to synchronize actions on different sides of the border in the field of aviation connection development, cooperation with airlines, regional airports, aviation companies, professional institutions as well as local communities in order to create effective cross-border mobility of people and goods in the Carpathian region with string aviation connection between regions.  

Taking into account the importance of the aviation topic for regional development, MOBI International consortium made decision to hold the next Round Table on the 26th of February, 2021, with the main topic for discussion: aviation connection between regions in Carpathian region. The initiator and main organizer of the Round Table is Maramureș County Council (Romania).

Press Centreof the International Associationof Regional Development Institutions IARDI

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