Creating a bright future

Posted: 1 August 2008 | Mr Fawaz Abdulaziz Al-Farah, President of Civil Aviation, Kuwait | No comments yet

The largest development project in the 80-year history of Kuwait International Airport is taking shape. A state-of-the-art aviation hub for the region will create an impressive ‘front door’ for visitors to this dynamic nation.

The largest development project in the 80-year history of Kuwait International Airport is taking shape. A state-of-the-art aviation hub for the region will create an impressive ‘front door’ for visitors to this dynamic nation.

Despite the global aviation slowdown, the latest statistics from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show the Middle East leading the industry for growth and the State of Kuwait is determined to be at the forefront.

Crucial to achieving that position and assisting in the national goal of transforming Kuwait into a financial and commercial centre for the region is the Kuwait International Airport Master Plan, the road map for the development of the gateway over the next 30 years and beyond.

Although the airport has undergone numerous upgrades and renovations over the last 25 years, including an almost total rebuild in 1991 following the Liberation of Kuwait, the latest Master Plan unveiled by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) aims to lift facilities onto an altogether higher plane.

Today, air traffic growth through Kuwait International Airport is averaging 12-17 per cent per year. Such significant year-on-year increases are indicative of the success of the ‘Open Skies’ policy initiated by the DGCA and point to an even brighter future.

The Kuwait International Airport Master Plan is essential to securing future growth, as it governs the arrangement of the entire airfield; terminal buildings, aprons, taxiways and runways, as well as associated operations like catering, ground handling and refuelling.

Starting with current facilities, the Master Plan anticipates demand and service level expectations, allowing the DGCA to understand the timing of expansion requirements as well as any other adjustments needed, such as re-location for more efficient operations.

Essentially, it is a rolling five-year development programme that also looks ahead 20-30 years to anticipate future trends in air transport. It is not a fixed blueprint, but is constantly evolving to ensure that it is delivering what is needed both now and in the future.

Phased development

Under the current Master Plan, airport development is divided into a series of separate, yet interrelated phases. Phase One deals with near-term projects (over the next five years), Phases Two and above look further into the future.

Phase One has three main objectives:

  • To raise the airport’s operational capacity from 450,000 up to 650,000 movements per year, and to maintain the ability to host all types of passenger and cargo aircraft, including the new generation of the wide body aircrafts such as the A380
  • To raise passenger capacity from seven million to more than 20 million passengers per year
  • To boost cargo movement and handling from 600,000 tons up to six million tons per year

Development under Phase One is divided into four distinct projects. The first two cover airfield upgrades, the third one comprises of building two new fire fighting stations and the new headquarters building of the DGCA; and the final one involves construction of a new, state-of-the-art passenger Terminal 2.

Reconstruction of the existing western runway 15R/33L and extending it to 4,775 metres is the main component of Phase One’s first project. This is to ensure Kuwait International Airport can handle ICAO “Code F” aircraft – in other words the A380. A number of Middle Eastern carriers, including Emirates and Qatar Airways, will be adding the super jumbo to their fleets as early as 2009 so we must be ready.

Some upgrades have already been carried out as part of the airport’s regular maintenance programme. As soon as A380 specifications were published, the DGCA incorporated them into ongoing work. Whenever major maintenance such as taxiway or apron reconstruction is being carried out, super jumbo standards are incorporated.

An extended runway 15R/33L will ensure a fully-laden, fully-fuelled A380 freighter can take off safely on the hottest summer day. In Kuwait, that means temperatures of up to 55°C. At 4,775 metres, on completion, 15R/33L will be the seventh-longest runway in the world and its various connecting taxiways will benefit the new planned Cargo City complex.

Also part of the programme are new internal service roads, bridges and perimeter fences, plus with a new main access highway running under the taxiways which will eventually connect the new Terminal 2 directly with the motorway to downtown Kuwait City.

The second project involves upgrading the eastern runway 15L/33R, which is to be designated as the airport’s main runway for commercial passenger aircraft to 4,000 metres. Construction will also commence on a third 4,580 metre parallel runway on the west side of the airfield, designed to primarily serve the Cargo City and military transport movements. Once this project is complete, the original western runway will be re-designated as the centerfield runway.

Iconic edifice

The third project involves the relocation of all the DGCA departments currently housed within the airport terminal into a new headquarters building. This will release additional office space for use by airlines and other companies with business in the passenger terminal.

The new DGCA HQ is expected to be an iconic edifice, a ‘gateway’ dominating the approach to the airport via the new access highway. Currently still in the conceptual phase, the airport authority is eager that it should be a visually stunning landmark.

Also included in the third project are two additional fire stations to cover the extended western runway and the new third runway. Added to the two existing stations, this will ensure the airport can meet the ICAO Cat 10 emergency response time of less than three minutes.

To clear space for the upgrades, the current Kuwait Air Force Support Zone will be relocated to the western side of the airfield. While the DGCA will provide the ground works, the military will be free to construct its own facilities on a pre-designated site.

International consultants Dar Alhandasa have finalised the designs for the first three development projects and work will commence in September 2008.

Meanwhile, work is already well underway to relocate the airport’s jet fuel facility operated by the Kuwait Aviation Fuelling Company (KAFCO) to a new site.

The existing fuel farm lies in the path of an apron expansion, so a new facility is currently under construction on a 120,000m2 site on the south side of the airfield, clear of the runway extensions. By December 2008, the old fuel farm site will be cleared ready for redevelopment.

Terminal 2

While the airfield upgrades will ensure Kuwait International Airport can handle any size of aircraft, from a passenger standpoint, the big news will be the new Terminal 2.

This will be capable of handling up to 13 million passengers a year on opening – taking Kuwait International Airport’s total capacity to 20 million. The new facility will be situated to the south of the current terminal, and seamlessly connected to it via a wide concourse.

Final designs for the 90,000m2 building are still under discussion with the Ministry of Public Works, which will be handling the architectural and construction phases.

Whatever the final decision, the DGCA is determined to deliver a new benchmark for air travel in the Gulf region and is keen to build on the ‘aircraft in flight’ theme established by the current groundbreaking facility. Key features of the new terminal include a ‘U-shaped’ footprint with 30 contact gates and 23 remote stands, as well as an enhanced range of passenger facilities.

The new terminal will build on our existing strengths – easy access, a short distance from check-in to aircraft, varied shopping and plentiful dining opportunities – and take them to a new level of excellence. The terminal will be A380-ready with eight gates capable of handling the super jumbo and its potential 500-plus passengers.

Once designs and schedules have been agreed (the entire project is being funded by the Kuwait government), construction is forecast to take approximately 3-5 years.

In the meantime, the DGCA is making maximum usage of its current terminal facilities. A major refurbishment program to modernise the interior décor of the main terminal was completed in 2007 and the addition of new food and beverage facilities and seating areas in the transit area offers a much improved passenger ambience. A new restaurant serving international cuisine has also been opened on the mezzanine level.

Conceptual vision

Plans for Phase Two are, at this stage, just conceptual but nevertheless give some idea of what will have to be achieved if air travel within the Middle East continues to grow at current levels.
Space exists to add further passenger terminals to the south of Terminal 2 with passengers, baggage and ground service equipment accessing the facility via an under-apron tunnel. At ultimate build-out, the airport’s passenger throughput could be as high as 55 million a year, although any future expansion will be demand-driven.

Following Phase One, we should have sufficient capacity for the next 10 years, but if growth outstrips the forecast we may have to bring forward Phase Two – the Master Plan includes the flexibility to speed up or slow down as required.

The current Master Plan, looking forward up to 30 years, is just today’s vision of the future. When the time comes to update the plan, changing trends might create the need to go in another direction.

For example, one proposal to relieve pressure on the existing facilities without hampering traffic growth would involve construction of new dedicated passenger facilities for national carriers Jazeera Airways and Wataniya Airways. Construction of the terminals, aprons, car parks and other facilities would be funded by the airlines.

The two L-shaped terminals proposed would be located well to the south of the Terminal 2 site, one each side of the new airport access road. Each would have 10-11 contact gates plus approximately 15 remote stands capable of handling aircraft of up to Code E size. Both Jazeera and Wataniya have new aircrafts on order from Airbus.

Whatever the future may hold, the DGCA will be prepared. Our flexible approach to expansion and industry dynamics will ensure we maintain our excellent record of promoting growth and also raise the bar on safety and service levels at Kuwait’s ‘front door’ to new heights.

Developing the cargo metropolis

Cargo, the often unloved relation of the air transport family, will also be receiving a boost under the current Kuwait International Airport Master Plan.

Included is a proposal for a two million square metre cargo and logistics facility with vast aprons and stands capable of handling up to 70 A380 freighters. Located to the west of the current cargo facilities, the new complex would have capacity for around six million tons of cargo annually.

We plan to create the ground infrastructure over the next two years so airlines, cargo agents, freight forwarders and other logistics operators can build their own dedicated facilities within what will effectively be a ‘Cargo Metropolis’. Kuwait-based cargo carrier Loadair, courier companies including DHL and FedEx, and numerous logistics firms have all expressed interest in the on-airport location, in addition to existing operators Kuwait Airways and National Aviation Services.

Both landside and airside sites will be available, opening up the possibility of cementing one of the DGCA’s long-held goals – an on-airport Free Trade Zone (FTZ). This would encourage firms involved in the repacking or re-export trade to benefit from establishing within the tax-efficient area.

Multimodality will be a key element for success and arrangements have been made with the Ministry of Public Works for a link road direct to the AlGhazali Highway ensuring fast connections to the existing FTZ at Shuwaikh port. Freight could then be moved between the two sites under bond, a key element in the establishment of an efficient sea-air-land cargo regime.

A second new highway would efficiently link with the seventh ring road for fast connections to markets in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

General aviation terminal takes off

A new era in executive aviation dawned at Kuwait International Airport in April 2008, with the opening of its new General Aviation Terminal.

Private aircraft ownership has witnessed spectacular growth in recent years, both around the globe and across the Gulf region with dozens of business executives now owning private jets.
The General Aviation Terminal features a 4,000m2, three-storey main building, a 5,000m2 hangar and a 90,000m2 apron. Operated by general aviation specialist Royal Aviation, the terminal was constructed under the private sector BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) model. The facility is open around the clock for handling private aircraft, business jets, air taxis, helicopters and air ambulances, as well as other non-scheduled passenger operations.

The main building houses a reception area, VIP customer lounge, high-tech conference rooms, prayer room, private offices and restaurants. In-house immigration and customs clearance, security checks, baggage screening and metal detector capability all enable efficient and secure passenger and baggage handling.

Aircraft handling services, line maintenance and hangar space are also available for private aircraft owners and operators.

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