Two Libyan Airlines’ Airbus aircraft, one A330 and one A320, were damaged when a mortar attack took out the fuel depot at Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport on Saturday. Neither plane had any passengers aboard at the time. However, for the unlucky A330, this was the second time it was hit by rocket shrapnel within a year.
Saturday rocket attack
On Saturday, forces presumably loyal to military commander Halifa Kaftar carried out a mortar attack on Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport. The rocket took out the aviation fuel depot and severely damaged two of Libyan Airlines’ Airbus aircraft.
One of the planes, a seven-year-old A320 registered as 5A-LAQ, had just arrived back to Tripoli from Istanbul. Although flight radars, such as FlightRadar24, say it was last seen that morning close to Malta and cruising at 35,100 feet, since it sustained damage in the attack, it is safe to assume it had reached its destination.
As reported by Al Jazeera, the Ministry for Transport said the airline was preparing it to operate a repatriation flight to bring home stranded Libyans from Spain.
The aviation fuel depot at Mitiga Airport was destroyed and a Libyan Airlines plane was damaged in warlord Haftar’s systematic rocket attacks on Saturday pic.twitter.com/pTnxR3soPT
— The Libya Observer (@Lyobserver) May 9, 2020
Not the first rocket damage for the A330
The other aircraft damaged on Saturday, a six-year-old A330 with registration 5A-LAU, had been parked at the Libyan capital’s airport for over eight months. It was going through repairs due to being caught in a night-time shelling on the 1st of September last year.
The aircraft, then operating flight LN1275, had just landed from Medina, and its passengers were disembarking onto the tarmac at around 02:00 local time when rockets fell a few meters away. There were no casualties, but several travelers were injured, and the plane sustained damage from shrapnel.
Part of a larger retaliation strike on Tripoli
The Libyan capital’s airport has repeatedly been targeted by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Especially since it launched its campaign to seize Tripoli from the government forces in April last year.
This March, civilian flights were halted due to frequent shelling even before the country introduced a lockdown. Planes belonging to Afriqiyah Airways and Buraq Airlines were damaged in the attack. The airport had just been reopened in December following a three-month suspension of operations due to the fighting.
Libyan Arab Airlines Airbus A320 (5A-LAQ) and A330-200 (5A-LAU) were seriously damaged by a mortar attack of the Libyan National Army at Tripolis-Mitiga Airport(HLLT). Both aircraft were stored inactive at the time. "LAQ" is likely a write-off. @lpc_ly @Lyobserver pic.twitter.com/pUkCmvd0dT
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) May 9, 2020
Saturday’s attack on Mitiga Airport was part of a large-scale strike on the Libyan capital reportedly including as many as 80 rocket hits, with six people killed and dozens more injured. The move came merely days after Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), launched air raids on an LNA strategically important base outside of Tripoli.
Kingdom of Libya Airlines
Libyan Airlines, the national flag-carrier of Libya, has previously been known as Kingdom of Libya Airlines (1964 to 1969) and Libyan Arab Airlines (1969 to 2006). It operates a fleet of two ATR 42 turboprops, six Airbus A320, four A330, and six Bombardier CRJ-900. The fleet has an average age of 9.3 years, and all but the one A320 damaged in the attack and two other A330s are parked due to travel restrictions. Thus, Saturday’s attack leaves the airline with only widebody aircraft immediately available.
Have you ever flown to Tripoli or with Libyan Airlines? What was your experience? Do you think the planes can be repaired and restored to service?