(Israel Twitter)Ovda Airport, נמל התעופה עובדה, Nemal HaTe'ufa Uvda, Arabic: اوفـدا مطار, (IATA: VDA, ICAO: LLOV), is a military and civilian airport in Israel, and the country's second international airport, located in the south of the country about 60 km (40 miles) north of the city of Eilat. Ovda was originally built as a military airport in 1980 following Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty because the Israeli Air Force needed alternative airfields to its Sinai bases. Nowadays, the airport also serves as the destination for many commercial flights to Eilat, especially for large planes which cannot use the shorter runway at Eilat Airport, although it is still used by the air force. The airport is expected to cease civilian operations once that Eilat's new international airport should become operational.
Ovda Airport started out as an airbase for the Israeli Air Force, constructed by the United States as a replacement for Etzion Airbase. It opened in 1981. The Israeli Airports Authority began operations from Ovda Air Force Base in 1982, after the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt. Previously all charter flights from Europe had landed at Etzion, however this was one of three airports in the Sinai that were handed over to Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords. A civilian terminal was built at the airport which handled direct charter flights from Europe.
In 1988 a decision was made that international flights bringing tourists to Eilat would land at Ovda, instead of at Eilat. This allowed the operation of large, wide-body aircraft, such as the Boeing 747, which cannot operate from Eilat Airport. Since then, most international flights land at Ovda instead of Eilat. The runway at Ovda also allows long range flights to take off for any European destination without the need to refuel.
Today, the airport sees regular scheduled domestic services operated by Israir, Arkia Israel Airlines, and El Al Israel Airlines as well as regular charter services from across Europe. In 2005, the airport had 746 international aircraft movements and 82,479 international passenger movements.
On January 1, 2009, the airport was closed to landing traffic during nighttime until further notice by the Ministry of Transport, due to the deteriorating condition of its runway. As such, there is currently no alternative landing strip in Israel during night time to the Ben Gurion International Airport for large aircraft, that will be forced to fly to Cyprus in case the Ben Gurion runways cannot accept the landing.
Airlines and destinations
Ovda Airport is served by one international carrier and three domestic airlines, serving few destinations in Europe and Israel. The airport is also used as a substitute for the inner Eilat airport in different situations.