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Second wing of Warsaw

Posted: 26 January 2011 | Przemyslaw Przybylski, Senior Press Officer and Spokesman for Warsaw International Airport | No comments yet

Warsaw, the largest city of Europe’s fastest developing aviation market, is aiming to complete the construction of a second auxiliary airport at a dis-used military base in nearby Modlin. The country is due to joint host the European Football Championships in 2012 and work has already began to make sure the project is completed in time for this event.

Warsaw, the largest city of Europe’s fastest developing aviation market, is aiming to complete the construction of a second auxiliary airport at a dis-used military base in nearby Modlin. The country is due to joint host the European Football Championships in 2012 and work has already began to make sure the project is completed in time for this event.

Warsaw, the largest city of Europe’s fastest developing aviation market, is aiming to complete the construction of a second auxiliary airport at a dis-used military base in nearby Modlin. The country is due to joint host the European Football Championships in 2012 and work has already began to make sure the project is completed in time for this event.

Sixty years of history

Modlin was a military airfield created in 1940, shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland. When building the airport, German specialists working for the Luftwaffe made use of plans prepared by Polish airmen in the 1920s. Throughout the war, Modlin served as a base for German bomber squadrons, which took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union. After the war, Modlin was briefly taken over by the Red Army, but in 1950 Polish fighter planes began to be stationed here. When, some 10 years ago, the military decided it did not need the base anymore, it was immediately suggested that a modern commercial airport should be built in its place. The proposal was put forward by Polish Airports (PPL), which operates Warsaw’s Chopin Airport, the largest in Poland; “We decided it would be an opportunity to broaden Chopin Airport’s offer and to increase the overall capacity of Warsaw’s airports,” says Michał Marzec, Director of PPL.

Warsaw’s limitations

At present, the airport in Warsaw serves about nine million passengers a year, nearly half of Poland’s total passenger traffic. The market is developing at an average rate of 5-6 percent annually and it is estimated it will exceed 15 million in 2015. The airport is expanding rapidly, a new terminal was completed in 2008 and new piers are now under construction that will almost double the number of stands at which passenger bridges are used. The construction of two new rapid-exit taxiways is also in progress. All this should ensure a continued high standard of service for the increasing number of passengers. However, the location of the airport within the city boundaries is not without its drawbacks (such as restrictions on night traffic) and means that Warsaw Airport cannot fully meet the demands of the growing market. This is especially true of low-cost airlines which are ready to accept a lower standard of service but expect lower fees. Therefore, PPL has decided that the best solution would be to invest in a new airport in Modlin.

Bound for success

From the beginning it was clear that the purpose of a new airport in the Mazovian region was to relieve Chopin Airport by taking over the bulk of Warsaw’s low cost traffic. Several budget airlines declared their intention to establish a permanent base at Modlin and move their operations there. Moreover, market surveys showed that the new airport is likely to attract a large part of charter and General Aviation traffic – yet another reason to be optimistic about Modlin’s economic prospects.

In the autumn of 2005, PPL commenced work on the airport’s business plan and design documentation. At the same time the enterprise began consultations with social partners to determine their level of participation in a company that would take charge of the development project. Following the talks, an entity was created solely for this purpose in December 2006. The shareholders, who included the Military Property Agency, the Mazovian Province and the Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki commune, were quick to realise the potential benefits of the project.

“I am deeply convinced that Modlin Airport will prove a success,” says Adam Struzik, the governor of the Mazovian Voivodship. “Firstly, because both Warsaw and the whole region need another airport. Secondly, because it’s a very good location. And, finally, this won’t involve building everything from scratch.”

45 minutes from the city centre

A state-of-the-art double storey passenger terminal with a usable area of 13,380m2, designed by the renowned Polish architectural studio Kuryłowicz & Associates, will be the airport’s flagship facility. It will be able to serve passengers of four A320 or B737 aircraft at a time. The facility will be divided into zones in accordance with ICAO requirements and Schengen standards so as to ensure full separation of arriving and departing passengers. Initially, the terminal will be able to accommodate about 1.8 million travellers per annum, but, owing to its design, it can readily be extended by adding subsequent modules.

The airport will be easily accessed from Warsaw by car or by bus. Modlin is served by a two-lane expressway and is a 45-minute drive from Warsaw’s centre during rush hours. Once the railway station under the terminal is completed (planned to open in 2013), Modlin will have a direct train service to Warsaw’s centre and Chopin Airport.

Contracts have already been signed with all the major contractors. The first stage of work, to be finished by the fourth quarter of 2011, will involve the construction and repair of airport technical buildings. The terminal and airside facilities/the airside should be ready by the second quarter of 2012, before the European Football Championship. The total cost of the project is approximately PLN 400 million (€100m), a fourth of which will come from the EU.

A dual-airport system

The construction of Modlin airport has been the subject of much controversy in the Polish aviation industry. Questions are raised over its role in relation to Warsaw Chopin Airport. However Michał Marzec – a PPL and Chopin Airport’s Director – is convinced that Modlin will complement Warsaw’s main airport.

“At least half of air traffic in Modlin will be new traffic, generated by the establishment of the new airport,” argues Marzec. In his opinion airport’s launching will provide an opportunity to widen the range of services available from the Warsaw area.

“I’m sure that Ryanair, which is not present in Warsaw at the moment, will fly from Modlin, where airport charges will be lower. This is what I call ‘market expand’,” explains Mr. Marzec.

Such ‘dual airport’ systems can be found in Stockholm, Milan, Frankfurt and Paris. It’s either justified in terms of business or operational requirements.

“A nearby airport will be able to receive planes redirected from Chopin Airport due to technical problems or weather conditions, but also aircraft which cannot land in Warsaw because of noise limitations during the night curfew,” suggests Mr. Marzec. “All those things considered, one can safely say that the airport in Modlin will serve as Warsaw’s second wing, allowing many residents of our city and region to take up air travel.”

About the Author

Przemyslaw Przybylski has been the spokesman for Warsaw Chopin Airport since September 2010. He has been a journalist for 10 years, writing newspaper articles on aviation-related topics. He has also contributed to a number of internet websites devoted to aviation.

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