By Aiyob Mawloodi
Erbil's new international airport is expected to shoulder a heavy load in the development of the city, the region, and the country.
The General Manager of Erbil's new airport, Mr. Stafford Clarry, announced in a press conference on Wednesday, March 24, that the new Erbil International Airport has started flights as a test period, and the fully completed airport will be officially inaugurated in June 2010.
The new airport, constructed next to the old one, has the longest runway in the Middle East and the fifth longest in the whole world. The length of the runway is 4,800 meters, and its width reaches 90 meters. The total area of the airport is 25,000 square meters. The airport has 16 gates that can receive any type of airplane, and 20 check-ins.
The plan of the airport was designed by Scott Wilson Group PLC, a global integrated design and engineering consultancy for built and natural environments with its headquarters in Britain. It was constructed by a Turkish construction company with its headquarters based in Turkey.
According to Clarry, the old airport, which only has one gate, was capable of receiving 150 flights per week. However, the new airport will, upon completion, have the capacity of 150 flights per day, roughly seven times more than the old airport.
For the purposes of creating new job opportunities for local human resources, the development of the region's capital, increasing the number of travelers, and thus improving the tourism sector in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) authorities decided to build a new airport in the shortest time possible, said Clarry at the press conference in Erbil.
"Erbil International Airport will--in terms of transportation, trade, airport management, technology, and tourism--become a very significant factor," said Clarry. "The main objective of building the new airport of Erbil is to support the growth of Kurdistan Region in the future, to become a gate from Erbil to introduce Kurdistan to the world, and to serve as a bridge between the Kurdish culture and the culture of other nations of the world."
Clarry added that with the inauguration of the new airport, the trade and tourism situation will improve vastly, which will in turn create new job opportunities and reduce the unemployment rate in the region.
Clarry said they have signed contracts with five companies who are providing excellent services to passengers, and that negotiations are currently underway with five other companies.
The old airport, which was previously a military airport, was constructed after the 2003 Iraq War, and was officially inaugurated on July 7, 2005. In December 2006, it received the first flight from an IATA airway company.
The airport was intended to serve as a way of attracting foreign investors and businesses to help Iraq's--and especially Kurdistan's--rebuilding process that was started immediately after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's Baathist Regime in 2003. Another purpose of the airport was to help Iraqis and Kurds abroad to return home safe and serve the development of their country. After almost five years of operation, the airport has been successful to a significant degree in achieving those goals.
Erbil's airport is expected to play a very important role in connecting East and West, since it is located on the old route of flights and has a strategic location.
Kurdistan Region, with its capital city of Erbil in particular, is known as the development and rebuilding gateway for all of Iraq, and due to the good security and stability the region is enjoying it has attracted the majority of foreign investment and businesses who are currently doing business in Iraq or are planning to do so in the near future.
The security and stability situation in the rest of Iraq is not suitable for business activities. This reality has increased the significance of Erbil International Airport and thus the load that could not be handled by the old airport. This necessitated the building of a new airport that can handle this heavy load and play an expected role in the development process of the city, the region, and the country.
( Kurdish Globe )