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First test flight to new Islamabad airport today

March 14, 2012

RAWALPINDI, March 14: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will run the first test flight to the under-construction New Benazir Bhutto International Airport near Fatehjang to check its runway on Thursday (today).

“The construction of two runways have been completed; however, the remaining work is in progress and likely to complete by end of June 2013,” said Air Marshal (retired) Khalid Chaudhry, the director general of CAA, while talking to Dawn on Wednesday.

Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar, Secretary Defence Nargis Sethi and other senior officials will be on board the first flight from Benazir Bhutto International Airport Islamabad.

Mr Chaudhry said a small plane of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) would make the first flight to the new airport. “We have completed the construction of the runways, taxi apron, VIP apron and other related facilities,” he said.

The new airport will have bigger halls as compared to Jinnah and Allama Iqbal terminals in Karachi and Lahore and will handle 6.5 million passengers annually.

“This airport will be a modern landmark structure representing the 21st century Pakistan, as it will be the diplomatic and business gateway to Pakistan through the capital city of Islamabad,” the official said.

The construction of the airport costing over Rs60 billion was started in April, 2007. Former President Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz laid the foundation of the airport spreading over 3,200 acres near Fatehjang, 30 kilometres from Islamabad. The PPP-led government renamed it as New Benazir Bhutto International Airport in 2008.

The project was to be completed by 2010; however, it remained plagued with problems of water, land acquisition and transportation. The CAA director general admitted that the construction work remained slow in the past. The contract of terminal construction was awarded in May last year and it would be completed in 2013.

When his attention was drawn towards the water problem in the area, he said the CAA would get water from Shahpur Dam as Punjab government had agreed to the proposal.“Two million gallons of water is enough for the runway requirement but the CAA needs more water for the terminal, adjoining facilities and residential areas around the airport.”

He said the CAA was also considering building small dams in the area with the help of the Punjab government. He said the CAA would provide finances and the provincial government would construct the dams in its jurisdiction as CAA.

The CAA chief also said residential quarters would be constructed for the airport staff and officers as shuttle service from twin cities would be costly.