Turkey delays full openning of Istanbul's 'mega' airport due to serious safety risks

Water channels built for drainage at the airport runway are insufficient, thus the water accumulations after excessive precipitation could cause the airplanes to lose control, an expert said
Thursday, 28 February 2019 10:04

Following the heavy snowfall in Istanbul, a flight from the newly-opened Istanbul Airport to Turkey's western province of Izmir had been canceled because a Turkish Airlines plane lost its control on the ground and started skidding due to snowfall. The cancellation of 5 out of 6 flights within the last two days reawakened the discussions about the opening of the airport with technical incompetence and safety risks because of electoral propaganda of the Turkish government for the local elections to be held on March 31.


Speaking to Cumhuriyet daily, Doğan Kantarcı, a faculty member from Istanbul University Faculty of Forestry, stated that the location of Istanbul's third airport's is only suitable for military aircraft to land and take off considering the climatic conditions.   

"Constructors of the new airport scraped river and lake sedimentaries on the ground and accumulated them to the shore. Then, they constructed water channels to drain water, and they sanded them. They pumped the sand onto the land with a pump ship from the bottom of the Black Sea, so a huge sand mountain has emerged. There is a sand layer on the top, and a pipe system to drain the water at the bottom. However, you cannot drain more water than the sand you pumped on the top can penetrate," Kantarcı said.

''So if there is snowfall or rainfall for 3 days in a row, sand porosity becomes full and the water infiltration rate slows down. Therefore, surface runoff begins or ponding occurs on the area," the expert added.

Doğan Kantarcı also warned if an airplane is landed on a ground full of water accumulations, there will be controlling problems.


A first pilot, Bahadır Altan, also talked about the safety problems they have been facing in the third airport. "Flight safety might be imperiled in the aerodrome opened with lots of deficiencies. Skids are critical warnings,'' he said.

Stating that the Turkish government put the new airport in Istanbul into operation in a hurry and, thus, very significant technical deficiencies occur, Altan noted that ''The government, particularly the President, shut their eyes to the murder of 52 workers for the sake of completion of the airport on October 29.''

"Their goal, here, is to use this so-called 'investment' in the forthcoming local elections; they do not care about the flight safety or passenger safety. The new airport also gave a great harm to the environment from the very beginning. If the Atatürk Airport is closed, more problems will occur," Altan stated.


Noting that the chemicals used on the new runways and taxiways may form a very thin slippery layer on the surface of the runway, Altan also said: ''This layer disappears in the course of time. These things are not even taken into account. Turkish Airlines would have moved in October 2018, but it is always postponed. It'll be postponed again because there is no airport here that can operate actively."

"The new airport in Istanbul is under serious risks of flight safety. When people become aware of this danger, it will be too late. There are no inspections," Bahadır Altan concluded.

The new date of transfer from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to newly-operated Istanbul Airport, which was first announced as December 30-31, was announced on Feb. 25 by the officials. The transfer process is planned to start on April 5, 2019, and end on April 7, 2019.


The airport is one of a number of "mega-projects" of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The pro-government contractors had been forcing workers to work day and night under inhuman conditions to finish the project.

As some resources report that around 400 workers have been killed at the site since the beginning of the massive airport project, the AKP government had denied such reports and said that 27 workers died since the construction had begun in May 2015. However, the government recently admitted that "at least 52 workers" have died on the site since construction began in 2015. 

In September 2018, hundreds of workers walked off the job at Istanbul's new international airport in protest at poor conditions and work-related deaths on the site. AKP government cracked down, arresting hundreds. Most were released without charge. After the protests, 62 workers had been taken into custody, while the court had ruled that 31 of them would be jailed pending trial.

A court on December 5, 2018, ordered the release of 31 Istanbul Airport construction workers detained.