Sunday, November 11, 2012

The 'International' Airport on Hvar: A Far Cry from Heathrow

There is an airport on Hvar Island, and it could be about to achieve international status, but it may be better to settle for a panoramic flight.
The 'International' Airport on Hvar: A Far Cry from Heathrow - Miranda Milicic Bradbury (http://)
With its growing reputation as a luxury island and billed at the new St. Tropez, high end tourists are often looking at flight options into the island of Hvar, and while there is an air strip on the island, there are currently no scheduled connections, but that may be about to change with the announcements of planned flights for the 2011 season.
New Flights to Hvar from Split, Dubrovnik and Italy?
A German-Croatian company, European Coastal Airlines, is advertising an ambition flight schedule to connect various islands in the Adriatic, with the island of Hvar central to the flight plan. According to the company's website, three routes could be available from June, 2011, linking the airstrip at Stari Grad with Split, Dubrovnik and, more intriguingly, a direct flight from Italy, from Pesaro.
If the airline's plans go ahead, travel times will be greatly reduced, with advertised flight times from Split (10 minutes), Dubrovnik (22 minutes) and Pesaro (74 minutes) a much quicker option that arriving by the conventional route from Split Airport or driving from Dubrovnik.
The Current Airstrip at Stari Grad
As the picture above shows, the current airstrip is little more than a field, with a small hut acting as the 'terminal.' The airport is situated just outside Stari Grad, on the way to Jelsa, and is accessed by a rough road. The main user of the airport is the company operating panoramic flights on the island.
Airport Expansion?
There has been much debate in recent years about the benefits of adding a proper airport to the island, with the arguments of increased benefits of tourism outweighed by concerns that the way of life on Hvar would be changed forever. Rumours of a proposed Russian-Italian consortium reaching agreement to build an airport on the east of the island caused an uproar in 2003, and the likelihood of an airport being built has receded.
Part of the problem is location. Hvar is not a particularly flat island, and there are only really two possible locations for the airport, which both have serious disadvantages. Expanding the current airstrip would be the logical option, but this is not possible as it is close to the Stari Grad Plain, which was became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The other option on top of the hill to the east, near Zastrazisce, is problematic due to windy conditions, as well as being a long way from Hvar Town.
Panoramic Flights and Charters to Split
The panoramic flight option from Stari Grad airport is an excellent way to view this stunning island. Up to four passengers can be accommodated in a Cessna-type C-172 aircraft, with a typical panoramic flight lasting an hour. Planes can also be booked in advance for charter to Split Airport, Dubrovnik and elsewhere in Croatia.
The European Coastal Airlines flights would be a welcome addition to the luxury aspect of travel to Hvar, but for the majority, the only real way to arrive is by ferry from Split or car and ferry from Dubrovnik, or from Italy in peak season.

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