Plans are afoot to convert the modest Bar-Yehuda airfield near Masada into an international airport. Sources inform "Globes" that the Dead Sea Region Economic Co. is promoting such a project and recently submitted a proposal to the District Planning and Building Commission. In the proposal, the company wrote, "This plan recognizes the tourist potential of this region, in its history, because of its proximity to Masada, and in its geography." The proposal adds that the airfield would be upgraded to serve as a gateway for international tourism.
The Bar-Yehuda airfield is two kilometers north of Masada and was paved by the IDF's Engineering Corps in 1963. The runway is 1,200 meters long and serves helicopters and light aircraft. The Dead Sea Region Economic Co., which works under the Tamar Region Council, is planning to build a tier II international airport. This would require a 2,000 meter long runway, control tower, passenger terminal, fire services, border control and customs. So far the Civil Aviation Authority and Israel Airports Authority have not been party to the plans to build the airport. It is also not yet clear who would finance the building of the airport, which would cost an estimated tens of millions of shekels in the first stage.
The aim is to allow narrow bodied planes (like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320) from Europe to land. These types of planes are responsible for most of the operations at Ben Gurion airport. Israeli carriers use them on domestic and regional flights and most of the low-cost carriers use them for their operations.
The Tamar Regional Council hopes that a new airport would contribute to tourism to the region and strengthen demand for Dead Sea vacations. It's a long way from Ben Gurion airport to the Dead Sea. It's easier for tourists coming to Israel to spend time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which are both connected to Ben Gurion airport by train. Ramon airport, near Eilat, was built so that international tourists would have easier access to the Red Sea resort.
Building a bigger airport by the Dead Sea would raise questions about protecting the environment and the surrounding historic sites. The plan submitted is very preliminary and an environmental survey has yet to be conducted. Thought would have to be put into how to connect the airport to Israel's road system, principally to nearby Road 90. Noisy jets near Masada could change the character of the area. The plan claims that building the airport would have 'minimal environmental impact' and takes into account dry river beds and the local flora and fauna.
Tamar Regional Council head Dov Litvinoff said, "Developing the region and increasing tourism to the Dead Sea, Israel's most beautiful region, is the mission of the council. An additional tool that would help in this matter is moving forward with the plan to build an international airport for visitors to Masada, which would allow tourists to come directly for a long vacation and at a reasonable price."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 1, 2019
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