Jat's Vrsac academy to expand after takeover

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Serbia and Montenegro's air traffic services agency, SMATSA, plans to develop a new airport at Vrsac following its takeover of the locally-based Jat Airways flight academy.

expansion of services as well as airport that is within facility. took over in what was described as "settlement arrangement with the airline" from Jat Airways flight academy at Vrsac end last year and

SMATSA management board president Nikola Stankov says that, in addition to private and commercial pilot training, the SMATSA Aviation Academy is to provide training for air traffic personnel.

Vrsac is to become an "international airport, able to handle regional aircraft with up to 70 seats", he says.

The runway is to be widened by 5m (16ft) and lengthened by 400m, in a €1.35 million investment that is to be funded by Vojvodina province and the Serbian Government.

New navigation and communication equipment is also to be installed either from procurement or allocated from SMATSA stock.

Vrsac's fleet of some 30 Cessna 152s, 172s, 310s and Piper Cheyennes - 18 of which are currently airworthy - is to be increased with eight single-engined aircraft this year, says Stankov, and "completly renewed in the next three". But the final size and type of the fleet is yet to be decided.

Started as an aviation centre in former Yugoslavia, and incorporated into Yugoslav carrier JAT in 1972, Vrsac flight academy evolved to become one of the larger flight-training facilities in Central and Eastern Europe.

Since SMATSA took over the academy, retired general Dragan Katanic - the former Serbian air force commander-in-chief - has been positioned as general manager.