New mega airport of Constantinople on its way to completion

8 April 2019
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“This is not just an airport. It’s a monument to victory,” is how posters around the terminal describe Istanbul’s colossal new airport.

That remains to be seen. After starting on Friday, Turkish Airlines will have a 45-hour window to complete one of the most complex logistical projects in history, as it switches its entire operation to the new Istanbul airport from its existing hub at Atatürk international airport.

Planners are calling this weekend move “the Big Bang”: a total of 10,000 pieces of equipment, from planes to huge aircraft-towing vehicles to fragile security sensors, will be moved from Atatürk to the new airport’s location, 30km north on the Black Sea. In just two days’ time, all Turkish Airlines flights will be expected to arrive and depart from the new site.

The stakes could not be higher. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 16 years in office have been characterised by his fondness for infrastructure megaprojects: new highways, mosques, ports and bridges – built to showcase the greatness of both Turkey and the president himself – have transformed the country. Though supposedly the engine of the economy, these projects are often finished at enormous cost to the taxpayer.

Erdoğan calls them his “crazy projects” and the new airport might be the biggest and craziest of all. When completed in 2027 at a projected cost of €7bln, it should be the busiest airport in the world by a large margin: six runways and four terminals will be able to accommodate 200 million passengers a year, dwarfing Turkey’s aviation hub rivals in the Gulf.

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