Remains of Paranoia
Gjadër Air Base (ICAO: LAGJ) is a military airport located in Gjadër, Lezhë County, Albania. It is north of the city of Lezhë and is also known as Lezhë-Zadrima Air Base. The Gjadër airfield is unique in Albania in being built near a mountain. It was built to allow aircraft after landing to go into a tunnel under the mountain. The tunnels have a capacity of storing about 50 aircraft plus personnel. As the airfield is located in the side of the mountain, the pilots have to be careful not to turn when taking off as they can crash into the sides of the mountain. The airfield was built to minimise the threat from the Yugoslav Air Force entering Albanian airspace. To counter any Yugoslavian aircraft, the most modern aircraft, the F-7A was based here. Construction of the base began in 1969, but because of its complexity it wasn’t finished until the mid-1970s. The first aircraft to use its runway landed on 10 July 1973, and the official opening was held on 15 March 1974. Regiment 5646 was established here with one squadron of F-6s, but in May 1976 six FT-5s arrived here and also the F-7A squadron from Rinas. On 16 October 1976, a second F-6 squadron moved to the base from Kuçovë. The home unit was later redesignated 4010 Regt. The base was in use until at least 1992 when on 9 September an FT-5 of the Albanian Air Force crashed on Gjadër. The aircraft, piloted by Ismet Zervoi and Martin Bregu, was successfully belly-landed on the grass next to the runway without much damage. On 12 March 1997, the base was stormed by local people during a national revolt against the Albanian government. Several buildings, including the control tower, were destroyed. On 16 March, soldiers abandoned the air base. Lack of funds prevented the base from being repaired, and flying operations ceased in 2000. It is now used as a storage facility for fighter aircraft withdrawn from service. No Albanian air force aircraft are permanently based there. Tunnels: A feature of Gjadër Air Base is the mountain storage area for aircraft featuring two portals beside the airfield buildings, accessed by a separate taxiway about 2km long through the farm fields, west of the main taxiway, dispersal, and runway complex.