Libyan Airlines Airbus A330 and A320 Damaged In Rocket Attack

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.

Libyan Airlines aircraft seriously damaged in rocket attack on airport
Two Libyan Airlines Airbus aircraft were damaged in a rocket attack on Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport. Photo: Getty Images

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.

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.

Libyan Airlines A330
The A330 with registration 5A-LAU was damaged in another rocket attack last year. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

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.

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.

Libyan Airlines 5A-LAQ
5A-LAQ had just arrived from Istanbul and was being prepared for a repatriation flight to Spain. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

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?