New airport launch sooner than expected

An announcement on the opening date of the Muscat Airport will be soon made once the results of the feedback from all trials are reviewed, said a top official of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation. Speaking to the Observer after conclusion of the first flight trial from the new airport terminal on Saturday, PACA CEO Dr Mohammed bin Nasser al Zaabi said, “Today’s test flight is a very crucial and important milestone in the life of this project.” He said, “Based on results from today’s flight trial and other operational tests, especially for the systems, we will be announcing the date for the opening of the airport. If you look at the project today, construction-wise, more or less everything is ready in the terminal building.”

Zaabi said the main task ahead is to finalise integration of the systems — IT, cameras and the security apparatus. “Systems are the heart and soul of any airport. Until we complete the integration process and achieve a level of stability in its operations, we cannot open the airport.” He said very soon there will be a meeting to review results of the trials and based on that we will announce the opening date. “It won’t take very long.” The PACA chief said the tender for the old runway is still on and we are expecting offers from bidders very soon. Shaikh Ayman bin Ahmed al Hosni, CEO, Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), said, “The company plans to manage and operate the airport with the aim that it should be among the top 20 in the world.”

He said, “We have built the team and invested in the team and assets of all airports. Feedback from the trials have been amazing and people are happy with the facilities.” The first flight (WY 2001, B787-8) from the new passenger terminal left on Saturday at 11:15 am with a number of officials, aviation specialists and media representatives. The trial simulated the actual operation of the airport as it brought into use all systems and devices. Till date, the 22 trials have tested over ten facilities/systems with the participation of around 1,300 volunteers from the public and 6,500 employees connected to the airport in cooperation with the readiness team at OAMC, Royal Oman Police (ROP) and Oman Air, among others.

Future trials will include the use of several aircraft to test all the new aircraft positions to ensure the final integration of all systems such as automatic guidance devices, fuel pumps, cooling and air-conditioning. Participants of the trials felt that new terminal is the need of the hour and should be opened at the earliest. “It looks great but we will have to wait and see how it will handle the passengers and aircraft traffic in actual terms,” said one of the participants. He was hopeful the airport will be operational soon to meet all the expectations. As finishing touches are still being given to various facilities at the airport, sources from OAMC and PACA were tightlipped about the probable opening date, but added the work has been fast-tracked.

The new passenger terminal has a capacity to handle around 20 million passengers per year at the time of its opening, which will go up to 56 million in the subsequent phases, spread over a total area of ​​580,000 sqm. The passenger building consists of three wings, each of three levels. The central area connects three wings, three main entrances, also the VIP arrival and departure halls. The building also has two gates dedicated to large aircraft such as the A380 and B747 and the baggage conveyors that can handle 5,200 bags.

Vinod Nair