Are challenges at New Istanbul Airport threatening carriers’ cargo operations?

What’s causing the problems at IST? 

Aviation experts had warned against the selection of IST’s location since the inception of the new airport because the site lacks cover from northerly winds blowing in from the Black Sea, which also makes IST susceptible to disruptions caused by cloud and fog, according to AhvalCritics of the airport site choice say the situation may worsen with time and be costly for airlines paying more for extra fuel. They also said the issue likely contributed to the airport authority’s decision to delay the opening of the airport. 

In 2014, the Chamber of Turkish Engineers and Architects (the Chamber) similarly warned that these severe weather conditions, along with soil structure could jeopardize the airworthiness of the site. Meanwhile, the Northern Forest Defense group also warned the area would destroy vegetation and nature in the area threatening the region’s biological diversity and ecological balance. 

At the time, Transport Minister Lütfi Elvan said the government was aware the airport was being built on marshland and that “the Chamber should quit playing politics and focus on science,” as reported by Hurriyet Daily News. He said that construction companies were performing the necessary requirements to construct the airport safely. 

Given these developments, political blowback against IST has continued despite its completed construction. Several local news sources reported consultants and reporters criticized former prime minister of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and mayoral candidate for Istanbul, Binali Yildirim, for approving the construction of the project while he served as the country’s Transport Minister. At the time, Yildirim bypassed two alternative plans to modify and expand ISL against the more costly and risky option of constructing the new third airport. Ahval reports the decision as part of a larger government plan to expand Istanbul northward despite further potential political, environmental, demographic, ecological and economic risks. 

Because IST opened so recently it is difficult to determine what this will mean for air cargo providers pursuing operations at the airport in the long run. However, problems this early on suggests it would behoove stakeholders to create contingency plans should meteorological issues pose a recurring issue, until airport authorities determine a method to resolve the potential issue. 

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