Istanbul: Third Airport Takes Shape

Last Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan laid the foundation stone for Istanbul’s future mega airport near the Black Sea during the project’s groundbreaking ceremony. Once operational the aviation landscape will be taking on new shapes.

Future site of Istanbul’s projected third airport at the Black Sea
Future site of Istanbul’s projected third airport at the Black Sea

“This new airport, which we kick-off today, is the largest and most complex project ever undertaken in Turkey. Once operational, about 80,000 people will work here for airlines, the airport operator, forwarding and handling agents, ground service providers and many firms doing business here,” Erdogan stated in his opening speech. And Transport Minister Lutfi Elvan enthused: “Due to this facility people from six continents will land and depart at Istanbul’s future gateway and thousands of cargo tons will be loaded, unloaded or transferred at this site.”


Until then, a large forested area will have to be uprooted, despite harsh protest from Turkish environmentalists that fear the worsening of local climate and the irretrievable loss of a natural habitat. 


The new airport, that still lacks an official name, will be built in various steps, with the first phase slated to be completed in 2017 already. By then annually up to 77 million passengers can be accommodated there and more than two million tons of cargo are expected to be loaded, unloaded or transferred at the site. Once fully completed sometime in the 2020s, four separate passenger terminals equipped with 165 air bridges will enable the fast flow of people and guarantee rapid turnaround times of aircraft.


According to official data handed out by representatives of the Turkish government during the groundbreaking ceremony the six runways comprising airport – once completed – will be the largest worldwide. Up to 500 aircraft can be parked there simultaneously thanks to its 6.5 million square meters apron size.


Adjacent to the passenger terminals large cargo facilities are part of the project. So are various medical centers, hotels, convention centers and a huge disposal facility to get rid of the waste produced by the new facility day and night.


Interesting for cargo carriers is the fact that the 50 kilometers northwest of Istanbul located airport will enable 24/7/365 traffic and be connected to the nearby mega city together with the Turkish hinterland with a new highway, crossing the Bosporus Straight which connects  the Black and the Aegean Seas.


Finally, the airport will be linked to the Ankara-Istanbul High Speed Train, building a nearby major Sea Port stands on the agenda of Erdogan’s government as well together with a canal to be excavated between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, thus circumventing the Bosporus.
The airport project goes in line with Turkish Airlines’ massive fleet expansion and the carrier’s ambitious plans to become one of the leading passenger and cargo carriers worldwide. To prevent any operational constraints it is predominantly TK that needs an alternative gateway to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport which – being wedged between residential areas – doesn’t offer airlines any growth options.


Final word from Turkey’s Head of State: “I want my 77 million countrymen to be proud of this ambitious airport project, that will be entirely funded by the private sector.”


Heiner Siegmund

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