The opening of a new civilian airport is not an everyday event. Actually, it has not happened since Israel became independent, which makes the event even more exciting and impressive. When you go directly from the old Eilat Airport to Ramon Airport, which looks like a white flower sparkling in the heart of the desert, its innovation and beauty are even more striking.
The airport's design is especially impressive, both externally, with the mountainous landscape seen through in its giant windows, and internally, with attention to small details, such as charging and USB sockets next to each seat in the waiting rooms, aesthetically pleasing bathrooms in which the soap, faucet, and hand dryer are hidden under a mirror, hydroponic vegetation, and external fish ponds. It really is impressive; there is no doubt that the airport can hold its own with state-of-the-art international airports.
The airport's technology extends to its self check-in stations, with an abundance of counters, and technology that will accommodate takeoffs and landings in poor weather conditions. The airport has 100 times as much space as the airport currently used by Eilat. This is the big league.
Ramon Airport is environmentally friendly; it was built using materials provided by nature in the area. Plants were uprooted, preserved, and replanted. Even the Cerbalus aravaensis, a type of huntsman spider native to the area, has been preserved.
It all sounds wonderful and impressive. The NIS 1.7 billion investment is visible in every corner. The only question is whether it will pay: whether Eilat will prosper and grow, bringing more international air traffic, and whether domestic air traffic will be adversely, which at least initially will be the airport's main activity, will be affected by the closure of Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport, from which most internal flights to Eilat currently take off. There is also the question of whether Eilat residents will get used to the idea of a 20-minute journey from Eilat to the airport in order to travel to Ben Gurion Airport.
There are many questions, but it cannot be gainsaid that the work done here over more than five years is truly remarkable. There is also the political realization that the civil aviation sector is booming and requires new facilities adapted to the future volume of traffic.
Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz decided to name the airport after the late Ilan and Assaf Ramon as a token of Israel's appreciation for the Ramon family. "Nothing is more symbolic and appropriate for memorializing two people who made such a great contribution to Israel than naming the airport after them," Katz said.
Ilan Ramon, an Israel Air Force combat pilot, was the first, and so far only, Israeli to participate in a NASA space shuttle mission. He was killed, along with the rest of the crew, when the shuttle Columbia exploded on its descent, in 2003. His eldest son Assaf, also a combat pilot, was killed in 2009 when his plane crashed on a training flight. His widow Rona, who initiated the memorials for Ilan and Assaf, died last month.
Katz added, "When Ramon Airport goes into operation, an area one quarter the size of Eilat will become available and make it possible to develop the town and substantially improve the quality of life for its residents. The project will also directly and indirectly create thousands of new jobs for people employed at the airport."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 17, 2019
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