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Istanbul's new futuristic airport has opened its doors

posted onOctober 30, 2018

Istanbul New Airport, on track to be the world's biggest, has been unveiled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a grand ceremony on Monday (Oct.29), coinciding with the 95th anniversary of Turkey's establishment as a republic.

The $11.3 billion airport, the most expensive public works project in the country's history, once fully completed will occupy nearly 19,000 acres and serve up to 200 million travellers annually with six runways and flights to over 350 destinations. That's almost double the traffic at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's biggest airport currently.

Until the end of the year the new airport will only regularly operate three domestic and two international routes, while in its first phase it will serve 90 million passengers annually.

The ultra modern facility is located in the Arnavutkoy district on the European side of Istanbul. 

“With this airport we aim to bring the world closer together with a major hub at the intersection of Asia, Europe and the Middle East,"  Huseyin Kadri Samsunlu, CEO of the airport, told reporters on Thursday. "Our challenge is to be the biggest and the best."

istanbul new airport

London-based firm Grimshaw Global in partnership with Norway-based Nordic Office of Architecture and London studio Haptic won rights to design the airport’s passenger terminals which include skylights inspired by Ottoman-era mosques. The tulip-shaped air traffic control tower, a collaborative design by American architecture firm Aecom and Pininfarina, an Italian car design company, won the 2016 International Architecture Award. The tulip has been the symbol of Istanbul for many centuries and is an important cultural reference in Turkish – Islamic history.

The developer is Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA), a consortium comprising five large Turkish contractors – Limak, Kolin, Cengiz, Mapa and Kalyon.

istanbul new airport

The contractors have been financing the project through capital and bank loans. They won the $29bn tender in 2013 under the “build-operate-transfer” model that will allow them to reap profits off the facility for the next 20 years while paying the country $25 billion in rent. IGA will operate the airport for 25 years.  

Opened in 1924, Istanbul's main Ataturk International Airport, the world’s 15th busiest, is scheduled to be closed to regular commercial flights once the new airport is underway. Ataturk airport is already the third largest airport in Europe (behind London’s Heathrow Airport and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport), handling 64 million people a year. Sabiha Gokcen Airport which is located on the Asian side of the city and handled 31 million passengers last year will remain open.

On December 31 2018, all equipment from Ataturk Airport will be transferred to the new airport. It will be a massive logistical operation, and may be documented by a National Geographic film crew, 

The new airport in numbers:
22,000-camera surveillance system
53,000 square-meter duty free complex
42 kilometre baggage handling system
225,000 employees
76 million square meters footprint
6 runways
16 taxiways
200 million annual passenger capacity 
1,500,000 m2 (16,000,000 sq ft) indoor area
165 aircraft jet bridges
4 terminal buildings, with rail access between terminals
3 technical blocks
1 air traffic control tower
8 ramp control towers
6,500,000 m2 (70,000,000 sq ft) apron with 500 aircraft parking capacity
“Intelligent” lighting with more than 40,000 LED

UPDATE 26/02/2019

The transfer to the new airport from the existing Ataturk Airport will begin on April 5 at 3 a.m. (0000 GMT) and will last 45 hours, Hurriyet reported on Monday (Feb.25). IGA said it would announce recent developments on its website soon.