By Humphrey Carter THE demolition of the old air traffic control tower early yesterday morning marked the end of an era at Palma's Son Sant Joan airport. At 1am, amidst tight security and with emergency services on stand by, a huge blast shook the airport as the explosives planted at the base of the tower were detonated and the tower came tumbling down.

The 1am hour failed to dampen the massive interest from the local media and airport authority AENA explained that it had to carry out the demolition so early in the morning because it was the only time of day when no flight arrivals or departures are scheduled.

Built in 1960 when Son Sant Joan was built to handle the tourism boom in Majorca, replacing the old airstrip at Son Bonet, the control tower was abandoned in 1987 and has not been used since.

In 1989, the old traffic control tower at Son Bonet, where the first of Majorca package holidaymakers flew into on the old Dakotas, was moved to the new Palma airport and now Son Sant Joan boasts one of the most technologically advanced control towers, built with the new airport terminal six years ago.

Once the remains of the original control tower are removed, it will make room for a new holding and parking area for aircraft.
Palma airport is having to handle an ever-increasing number of planes, and passengers, and is about to embark of yet another major expansion programme to make sure that Son Sant Joan can meet the demands of the future.

One of the main areas of concern for the future is that, while the terminal may be new, the runway was built some 30 years ago and is now full of bumps and holes and the airport authority want to build a number of quick exit runways branching off the existing main runway to allow for an increase in take-offs and landings.

Obviously, expanding the airport and increasing traffic has angered local residents and local environmentalists, but the Ministry for Public Works has given the quick exit project the green light, although work will not start for at least another year, pending the public consultation period.

However, in principal, the project to expand the airport so it can handle 38.5 million passengers by the year 2015, has been given the go ahead, much to the surprise and anger of local green and resident organisations.