Challenge Air Group, who were recently awarded the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by Transport Malta, provided a flight as well as the logistical aid for the return of the Flemish Tapestries to Malta, where they will be exhibited in St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta after undergoing extensive restoration works in Liège Belgium.

Challenge Airlines MT received its AOC on 1st November 2022 and will be operating regular flights between Liège, Tel Aviv (TLV), Sharjah (SHJ), New York (JFK), and Mumbai (BOM).

This airline has a fleet of two B767-300ER registered 9H, both with a payload of 60 tonnes, 10 pilots available to fly over Europe from their hub at Liège airport (LGG), in Belgium.

The inaugural flight was the result of cooperation between different branches of Government as well as the private sector.

A ceremony was held to celebrate the return of the Flemish Tapestries. This was attended by the Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government Owen Bonnici, the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade Ian Borg, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Aaron Farrugia, the Director General of the Civil Aviation Directorate (CAD) Captain Charles Pace, the CEO of St John’s Co-Cathedral Tonio Mallia, and CEO of Challenge Group Yossi Shoukroun.

Minister Bonnici stated: “These tapestries have been a property of the Co-Cathedral for 350 years. The finished restoration of these tapestries is certainly a step forward for the wider appreciation as well as a unique experience for those who will see them in the coming years.”

Minister Borg added: “It’s a pleasure for us to see that with a strong intervention from our Embassy in Belgium, through Clint Tanti and the rest of the employees, we were able to bring these tapestries to Malta without any costs for the Maltese Government. Above all, these can now be enjoyed by the public and the tourists who choose to visit the St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.”

Unloading the Femish Tapestries

Minister Farrugia said that it is clear that there is a professional relationship that goes beyond the granting of AOCs between the CAD and the airlines. “Apart from this addition to our 9H register, this is the holistic approach towards stakeholders who create a number of jobs and facilities for the Maltese and Gozitans to be trained in this industry. Such a gesture is greatly appreciated by the Maltese people as we are seeing this company contributing to the Maltese cultural heritage..”

Captain Pace stated “it is of great satisfaction that Challenge Air Cargo were so generous to donate this flight and logistics support to return the Flemish Tapestries to Malta for them to be once again exhibited to the public. I thank Challenge Air Cargo for their faith in our jurisdiction and look forward to seeing them grow and diversify.”

Mr Shoukroun, CEO of Challenge Group said: “Just one week after receiving our licence to operate in Malta, we are immensely honoured to be the airline chosen to bring back these valuable tapestries that first made their way to the island around 320 years ago.

He noted that the tapestries were woven in Belgium, depict Christian scenes in Jerusalem, Israel, and were ordered by Grand Master Fra Ramon Perellós y Roccaful for St John’s Co-Cathedral, in Valletta, Malta.

“Thus, all three countries where Challenge Group has a base and for which it holds Air Operator Certificates, are represented.”

Challenge Group also expressed its gratitude to the Maltese authorities for facilitating the important milestone in Challenge Group’s strategic development,

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