RAWALPINDI: Following years of delays and controversies, Pakistan’s first greenfield airport is expected to be operational for international and domestic flights from April 20, media reports have stated.
The Y-shaped airport, made according to international standards, is located 20 kilometres from Zero Point Islamabad and over 25 kilometres from Saddar, Rawalpindi.
Almost all international and domestic flights will be handled by the new airport, referred to as the Islamabad International Airport (IIA). It will also serve as the primary base of the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which recently got its own rebranding with the depiction of the Markhor on its fleet.
The IIA is set to be the largest airport in the country and is designed to facilitate 15 million passengers annually in the first phase. The capacity is scheduled to increase to 25 million annual passengers after its expansion.
Besides a four-level terminal building, two runways, taxiways, apron and two parking bays for wide-body aircraft A-380 have been built. There will also be a cargo terminal, fuel farm, air traffic control complex as well as a fully-functional state-of-the-art firefighting station and modern rescue facilities.
The new airport will have 15 air-conditioned jetways or passenger boarding bridges, 13 remote bays for larger aircraft and 7 remote bays for ATR and other smaller planes, in addition to four cargo bays. Of the 15 jetways – two have been specified for the wide-body aircraft A380. The Benazir Bhutto International Airport had no boarding bridges and suffered from a chronically inadequate immigration desk. The small number of immigration officers could not handle the influx of thousands of passengers flying in every day.
The airport is accessible from Islamabad via the Kashmir Highway, while people in Rawalpindi will be able to access it via the Grand Trunk Road. No dedicated public transport is available to the airport; however, government authorities have plans to inaugurate a metro-bus service for passengers soon.
For security purposes, more than 500 Airport Security Force personnel will be required to be deployed at the new IIA to ensure safety for all passengers.
Security officials, however, have already expressed concern over the existing situation of funnel areas of the new airport which are close to the Motorway where lights could be a security hazard.
Though more than 85 security towers have been built around the airport to ensure that nobody from outside can enter the area, several of the towers lack basic facilities like toilets/washroom, lighting and restrooms.
“No clean water is available to drink at the security towers, and it’s difficult to keep visual contact from the towers to the airport,” a security official, on the condition of anonymity, commented.
The security staff camp is located 12 kilometres away from the airport which security officials consider a cause for concern. The airport itself lacks proper rescue and evacuation mechanisms.
There are also no alternate routes for VIPs, which according to security officials would have the potential to create traffic bottlenecks as well as security hazards.
“The Benazir Bhutto International Airport was a smaller airport, which meant that security management was not so complicated. Considering the new airport is significantly larger, the security detail needs to be much more comprehensive. Given the fact that the location of the airport is also in an area where there have been reports of miscreant activities, security arrangements are not water-tight” a security official said.
He said at the new airport, security management systems, CCTV, and public address systems has been installed complimented with all-night patrolling. There are two bomb pit facilities each on the departure and international sections of the airport.