For first time, Bosnia controls its skies

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia took control over most of its air space on Thursday for the first time in 22 years as an independent state after finally establishing its own system of air traffic control.

Because of Bosnia's 1992-95 war, its air space was controlled by international forces deployed to keep the peace, before passing to neighbouring Serbia and Croatia in 2003 while Bosnia built up its own capabilities.

Djordje Ratkovica, director general of Bosnia's Directorate of Civil Aviation (BHDCA), said Thursday's partial handover of control marked the end of a 10-year project to establish Bosnia's own air navigation management system and train a staff of almost 400.

Serbia and Croatia will continue to control airspace over 10,000 metres (33,000 feet), which Bosnia hopes to take over at the end of next year.

"For the first time in its history, Bosnia today conducted regional flight control," Ratkovica told a news conference.

The project, establishing air control centres in Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka, cost close to 53 million Bosnian marka (S$43.6 million), part of which was financed through a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The BHDCA says Bosnia expects to collect around 35 million Bosnian marka in revenues from commercial flights this year, and around 38.5 million marka in 2015. Most of the money had previously gone to Serbia and Croatia.