A groundbreaking ceremony for Istanbul’s third international and the world’s biggest airport was held on Friday. With a capacity of 90 million passengers, space for 500 planes and a 76-million-meter-square area, the airport will be the largest in the world and the biggest aviation hub in Europe.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with a large number of ministers, businessmen and local governors, gathered for the ceremony in the remote Arnavutkoy neighborhood of Istanbul to attend the event. “We are not just building an airport, we are actually building a victory monument,” said Prime Minister Erdogan said.
Istanbul’s two airports, currently operational, were visited by a total of over 70 million passengers in 2013, raising concerns of capacity issues as the number continued to rise. Erdogan said the first phase of the airport, meant to service 90 million passengers, would be operational on Oct. 29, 2017, marking Turkey’s 94th Republic Day.
Turkey’s passenger numbers increased by 11 million last year. In 20 years’ time, Istanbul airports’ commercial aircraft traffic is expected to exceed 1 million aircraft, carrying 118 million passengers per year, according to a 2010 forecast by Turkey’s Middle East Technical University.
The airport will be connected to the city center through a new highway, the upcoming third bridge on the Bosporus and railway systems.
The Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon Consortium, a joint venture of Turkish companies, won a tender for the third Istanbul airport in May 2013, promising to pay the state 22.1 billion euros (TL 62.7 billion), plus taxes, to run the airport over a 25-year period starting 2017. The airport will also act as a focal point for the Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s flag carrier, which is one of the fastest growing airline companies, currently flying to 208 international destinations.
The ultra-modern new airport will include four separate terminal buildings connected via a rail system, eight control towers, six airfields, 16 taxi roads, a 6.5 million square meter apron, cargo and general aviation terminal, a parking garage with capacity for about 70,000 cars, medical aviation center, hotels and a convention center.
Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil said the third airport would play a crucial role in making Istanbul a regional hub. “Istanbul will be a strong transit hub thanks to Turkish Airlines and the third airport. This strength does not exist today, as Ataturk Airport is too crowded,” Kotil said.