Turkey's mega-hub starting to rise up
Airports are complex organisations and Turkey is taking bold steps in building a new mega-hub. Keith Mwanalushi looks closer at the scale of the project.
IGA Havalimanı İşletmesi AS – the company building Turkey’s new airport to the north of Istanbul – has its work cut out.
With a capacity to accommodate 90 million passengers per year at its opening in the first half of 2018, Istanbul New Airport will be one of the largest in the world.
The facility will be built over an area of 76.5 million square metres and the construction will be carried out in four phases, of which the first will be finalised in two years’ time.
The project is the biggest public-private partnership ever undertaken in Turkey, with a 25-year concession period. IGA is committed to pay the state €22.1 billion ($24 billion), plus taxes, over 25 years starting in 2017. Private and state banks are financing the first stage of the project, worth a total of €4.5 billion.
As a result of the strong and consistent development of countries such as China, India, Russia, Indonesia, and Turkey, the growth axis of the world has shifted from the west towards the east. This development has also caused a shift in the dynamics of the aviation industry on the same axis.
“Each year, approximately 40 million tourists visit Turkey; around 70% of them travel by aircraft,” declared IGA’s CEO, Yusuf Akçayoğlu.
Turkey has a population of 76.6 million and half of those are under 30, generating 150 million passengers in 2013, which is a five-fold increase in the last decade, according to data provided by IGA. Flagship carrier Turkish Airlines has also been expanding rapidly in recent years.
“The importance of the Istanbul New Airport is now evident,” said Akçayoğlu, adding that, with this mega project, Turkey had taken an enormous step towards meeting the challenges that the world aviation industry will face in the coming years. “The current airports are also unfit to serve the latest-generation wide-body aircraft,” he said.
John Grant, senior analyst at air travel intelligence company, OAG, said there was an absence of capacity, especially in the peak hours, at the country’s existing airports – particularly in Istanbul.
“Our schedules data at OAG reveals that Istanbul Ataturk Airport is running in excess of 25 arrivals and departures every hour across the whole day and Sabiha Gokcen is not far behind; which indicates that future growth in the peak hours may already be constrained and for any emergent market, that is clearly something that needs to be addressed,” he said.
In the last decade, Istanbul has grown into a major hub, with Turkish Airlines now serving more countries than any airline in the world. “Combine that with a really strong low-cost market sector and healthy domestic market, then Turkey, specifically Istanbul, remains one of the few hub airports that will be able to challenge the likes of Dubai in the next decade,” said Grant.
OAG data shows that, in 2006, Turkish Airlines scheduled some 64,482 flights from the two Istanbul airports; in 2016 the planned schedule reflects 193,564 – three times as many in a 10-year period.
Phase I of the project is expected to be completed in 2018 and Akçayoğlu reported that the installation of the terminal steel roof started in January this year. He added that the roof covering works started at the end of June and the construction of the air traffic control (ATC) tower would also start soon.
“This summer construction works on third-party company buildings, such as catering, cargo, ground services and aircraft maintenance buildings, will start,” the CEO confirmed, adding that runway construction had already begun.
This airport project has many standout features. Along with the largest terminal under one roof, the facility will feature Europe’s largest car park, with 18,000 spaces.
Unifree Duty Free will build the largest duty-free shopping area in the world, across 53,000sqm of space. The 20,000sqm express cargo area will be established by DHL and the airport will be operational on a 24-hour basis.
It is one of the biggest projects ever in Turkey, with an investment worth €10.3 billion, but new airport projects of this scale are complex and typically face a number of technical challenges.
“There are many challenges but, at the same time, many opportunities,” Grant observed. He said it began with having available land resources and then building the subsequent supporting infrastructure. “In the UK, we are struggling to find a solution to the capacity issues in London and yet in Istanbul a new multi-runway airport is being built in record time.”
Once the infrastructure plan is well advanced, it then becomes a major logistical project, moving airlines, reallocating slots, adjusting schedules and undertaking all of the necessary marketing and communications around the new airport – how to get there, minimum check-in times and so on.
“It’s also, of course, a challenge in terms of the work forces and migrating the current staff to a new airport, many of whom will live close to one of the existing two facilities; factoring that into working hours and terms, and having to recruit new staff for the expanded airport. These are all positive challenges for such a facility,” Grant stated.
Today’s fast-growing airports are implementing a number of ‘smart’ technologies to meet the growing number of tech-savvy travellers.
Akçayoğlu is certain that the new airport will be a hub for passengers and a centre of IT innovation. “IGA will offer a comprehensive set of IT solutions to enhance the passenger experience, such as self-service equipment with biometric features,” he said.
He mentioned a number of technologies, including smart kiosks, social media-enabled services, airport gaming, loyalty services, queue management, airport mobile applications and a seamless internet of things (IoT) framework to communicate with smart infrastructure in order to deliver a more efficient and effective user experience.
Also, so-called beacon technology will be established for indoor navigation – small gadgets, the size of a matchbox, localise passengers inside the terminal. Airlines can easily provide passengers with indoor directions, walking times to gates, lounge access, and boarding alerts. Visually impaired or handicapped people will be able to use the indoor voice navigation. In another innovation, passengers who possess biometric chipped passports will be able to use automated e-passport gates, avoiding long lines to get through passport control more quickly.
The new airport will make use of airport collaborative decision-making (A-CDM). Akçayoğlu explained: “The A-CDM concept aims at improving air traffic flows and capacity management by reducing delays, improving the predictability of events and optimising the utilisation of resources, which will be implemented to allow each partner (airlines, ground handlers, ATC, security, caterers etc) to optimise their decisions in collaboration with other A-CDM partners, knowing their preferences and constraints and the actual and predicted situation.”
To enhance the passenger experience, Akçayoğlu is especially happy with the new bag drop solution. “It enables passengers to check-in their luggage quickly and easily. The system is simple. Having checked in online, or at the airport kiosk, passengers will be able to weigh their bags and use their boarding pass at the self-bag-tag kiosk to generate a label for their bag. They will then be directed to the designated bag drop zone, where they can transfer the luggage themselves,” he explained.
The new airport will be fitted with around 3,000 monitors to keep passengers informed. These will be located in different zones, like check-in counters, gates and baggage claim carousels. “By providing cutting-edge technology with both hardware and software, the accuracy of flight information will be improved and the aesthetics of the terminal environment will be enriched,” Akçayoğlu added.
Istanbul New Airport’s ATC tower is being developed by AECOM, a company that provides engineering, consulting and project management services for infrastructure projects, in conjunction with Pininfarina, which won an international design concept competition.
“In design, Pininfarina’s aerodynamic and organic formations meet the shape of a tulip, which is well known as Istanbul’s symbol,” said Akçayoğlu.
The tower is 90 metres high and is built on a 5,100sqm construction area. “As the air traffic will be controlled from two floors at the top, the technical management will be handled in the first two floors and in the basement,” he continued.
IGA is planning a next-generation ATC system with DHMI – which is Turkey’s general directorate of state airports authority.
Integrated controller working position (ICWP) will be in place covering advanced surface movement guidance and control systems (A-SMGCS), electronic flight strips, departure clearance, weather and equipment status information.
“The A-SMGCS implementation, which is the main element of ICWP, will be the one of the biggest in the world.
A-SMGCS surveillance functions allow for the identification of aircraft on the movement area and transponder-equipped vehicles in the manoeuvring area. It provides for enhanced safety and protection of the runway as one means for avoiding runway incursions. One of its best benefits is to allow for enhanced low-visibility operations,” said Akçayoğlu.
The airport will utilise an electronic flight strip and departure clearance (EFS&DCL) system in place of the paper strips in order to manage “departure clearance” demands coming from the aircraft.
Akçayoğlu acknowledged that traditional paper strips have several limitations. “They are time-consuming to print and update, the information on the strips stays with the controller, and the possibilities for integration with safety nets are limited,” he explained. “At a modern commercial airport, where traffic and safety demands are continuously increasing, an EFS&DCL system is a highly customisable solution to support the specific needs of the controllers.”
In June, Boeing announced a new technical assistance agreement with IGA. Through the agreement, Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen, will provide its total airport and airspace modeller (TAAM) solution to assist IGA and DHMI. This group will support the development of Istanbul New Airport airspace design, the airport operation optimisation programme and an operational readiness plan.
“We look forward to working with IGA and DHMI to find the most effective operational concepts for the Istanbul area, as part of the overall investment in the infrastructure of Turkish aerospace,” said Aysem Sargin, managing director of Boeing Turkey. “Using our TAAM tool, we will be able to show the impacts of all operational concepts and assist the Istanbul New Airport team to make the most informed decisions possible for the new airport.”
Grant recalled having briefly worked on some air service development activity at Sabiha Gokcen when the new terminal had been developed and the low-cost sector was beginning to emerge. “Even then you could see that, over time, the two airports would be challenged for capacity and people were already discussing the new airport location and planning was at an early stage.
“In the UK, we were in our 10th year of discussion around the need for a third runway at Heathrow, which just shows how quickly the authorities have moved in Turkey to make the new airport a reality,” said Grant.
He believes that Turkey is, in many ways, a unique market, which gives it the strength that is seen today.
“In Istanbul it has a very well-placed geographic hub, supported by a major airline, which, in turn, is part of the world’s largest airline alliance. It also has a considerable range of domestic destinations, which all connect in Istanbul and provide a healthy balance of local market demand and connectivity to the rest of the world.”
All of this surly places Turkish airports at a competitive advantage relative to their neighbouring markets. “The most immediate challengers are Dubai and Doha, and to a lesser degree Frankfurt, but Istanbul really does suck the traffic up from around the region and is the key hub for many neighbouring markets, purely because of the size of the local market and the services that it can support,” Grant summed up.