Istanbul РSabiha G̦k̤en opens its new doors

Posted on 14 February 2011

Date: 01/10/2009
Istanbul – Sabiha Gökçen opens its new doors

Istanbul’s second international airport, Sabiha Gökçen, is opening the doors of its new terminal Oct. 31, attaining high standards.

The terminal, which has an annual capacity of 25 million passengers, currently is undergoing tests. Filled with cuttings, suitcases purchased from junk dealers are delivered from the check-in counters and checked as if they are going to the labeled countries or cities.

Children, aged between 12 and 14, are being left in terminals with boarding passes in hand and observed whether they are able to reach the gates or not. Before the passengers use the terminal, tens of similar tests are being conducted.

The architectural design of airport terminal buildings is generally handed over to contractors. Thus, the constructors have to do what is given and do not have a say in the project. Due to this problem, buildings that are modern-looking but lack in aesthetics are built. When the selector is the state, architectural discussions are limited and inflexible.

Sabiha Gökçen’s new terminal does not have an aesthetic headiness, but it is far from being ugly. The terminal, which gathers domestic and international lines under one roof, offers comfort with its “Schengen” type.

Limak boss Nihat Özdemir has no problems with the work. He purchased the best material and minimized design mistakes. Now he is counting the days before the opening. Özdemir is following all test results and is very excited about the operation. Following all the details, he is literally running from one end of the terminal to the other. This is not a classical, Ankara-based state contractor.

Limak has taken a big risk, as it will pay 3 billion euros to the state for managing the Sabiha Gökçen Airport for 20 years. It also invested nearly 500 million euros. “How will you make such a big amount of money?” I asked.

“First of all, we are breaking a record by finishing the terminal in 18 months,” Özdemir said. “We had promised the prime minister to decrease the construction period to 18 months from 30. We took over Sabiha Gökçen on May 1, 2008. Under pressure of our promise, we created a suitable working environment. It is not easy to build such a structure in Turkey. We did this and we will earn the money from operating it.”

In the apron, there is a wide area between the bellow and the parking plane. I asked whether such an area would help increase speed in operations. “Excluding big jets such as the A380, 777 and 747, as one plane nears the bellow, the other will be able to pass nearby. This would help to quicken the traffic,” Özdemir said.

As there are many bellows and some have double exits, Özdemir explained that the project was developed with the thought of giant jets such as the A380. “Currently, one bellow is able to serve an A380,” he said.

His main concern is whether the company will attain success in operating the airport. “We are constructors,” he said. “Our Indian partner GMR has built, and is operating, two big airports in India. Our Malaysian partner is managing nearly 100 airports. We will add our experience to theirs. I believe we will manage this.”

“The most important issue in an airport is economizing,” he said. “It is crucial to be able to have cost-cutting operations. After landing, the plane has to complete the necessary procedures as soon as possible. I believe we will provide this. If we can keep this promise, Sabiha Gökçen will be an airport in demand, even before we invite companies here.”

The prime minister has also ordered to build a second runway at Sabiha Gökçen. The related budget was given a further $100 million and expropriation work has started. According to Özdemir, by the end of 2012, the second runway, which may be as long as 3.5 kilometers, may be at our service. “The rise in traffic will make it mandatory anyway,” he said.

29 September 29 2009 (Quoted from Hurriyet Daily News – Abridged)

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