Istanbul’s third airport will welcome its first plane before February of next year, according to Turkey’s transport, maritime, and communications minister.
Speaking at Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk in Ankara on Friday, Ahmet Arslan said: “We will land the first plane at Istanbul’s third airport before February 2018.”
The official opening of the new under-construction airport in Istanbul, the first phase, will be on Oct. 29 of next year, he said. Oct. 29 is the day Turkey marks Republic Day, commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Around 68 percent of the airport construction has been completed, Arslan added. "Workers are working day and night to finish the project on time," he said.
When it is completed next year, the new airport will assume most of the passenger traffic from Ataturk International Airport, hosting 250 airlines flying to more than 350 destinations, making it one of the world’s largest transport hubs.
When the first phase is completed in 2018, it will have the world's largest terminal under one roof, with a gross floor area of nearly 11 million square feet and the ability to serve 90 million passengers a year.
With the completion of all phases, the airport is expected to be the busiest one in the world, with flights to over 350 destinations and, eventually, an annual capacity of 200 million passengers.
Istanbul's Ataturk Airport is the busiest airport in Turkey, with 41.6 million passengers in the first 8 months of 2017, according to the state airports authority. It was followed by Sabiha Gokcen Airport with 20.5 million passengers, Istanbul's main air hub on the Asian side.
Arslan also spoke on an omnibus bill containing air security measures, including the use of air marshals and sharing passenger information with the destination countries.
"Armed security forces will be deployed on board airplanes when necessary," Arslan said.
He added that sharing passengers' information with destination countries is obligatory and the bill will provide this a legal basis.
On the bidding process to make the Turksat 5A and Turksat 5B communications satellites, Arslan announced that Airbus made the best bid, financially and in terms of domestic contribution.
He said that three top international firms had bid for the job: the French-U.K. partnership Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus D&S), Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELKO), and the Canadian-U.S. partnership MDA/Space System Loral (MDA/SSL).
"We invited Airbus to negotiate on prices. Our aim is to finalize negotiations and sign an agreement this month, and right after to start production," Arslan said.
He added that Turkey aims to launch the Turksat 5A by 2020 and Turksat 5B by 2021.
The transport minister said he will visit Greece on Oct. 11 to discuss Ankara's ban on Turkish-flagged commercial yachts and regular passenger ships sailing to Greece.
The ban came on Sept. 25 after Greek authorities seized 11 Turkish vessels for alleged violations of maritime regulations. A ban was also issued on regular passenger ships as of Oct.12.
"We will hold meeting with the relevant minister in Greece on Oct. 12," said Arslan.
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