GeriGündem No turbulence at Gazipaşa
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No turbulence at Gazipaşa

ALANYA, Antalya - Gazipaşa Airport starts to stage test flights finally, showing some positive signs after years of debates and questions hanging in the air. The beginning marks the area’s transition from a turbulent past to a clear future and gives hope to everyone, not only the residents of Gazipaşa, but also to every local of the Mediterranean area

There was a happy ending to a long story when Gazipaşa Airport started test flights last Tuesday, after more than a decade of preparation, criticism and waiting. When construction took off in 1992, Gazipaşa Airport was set to deliver a new promise for everyone in the eastern Turkish Riviera, an area with a 100-kilometer radius. Not only the residents of Gazipaşa but also the Alanya region in general and the locals of this Mediterranean stretch, extending as far as the historic town of Anamur were happy to see the beginning of a dream becoming a reality. When planned, executed and operated efficiently, the benefits of running an airport are countless. It drives human traffic to a region, generates revenue for local industries, creates multiple employment opportunities and attracts investment.

But it took almost a decade and a half to complete the construction of Gazipaşa Airport, which became infamous for its long-lasting, unfortunate destiny. The dilemma about its location, blocking the Taurus Mountains up the road and the wind that blazes Gazipaşa’s shores generated dozens of newspaper stories, not about the benefits that this investment created but about criticisms of officials for miscalculating the risks associated with its location.

Gazipaşa Airport, in its almost 20-year history, managed to welcome only a single plane in 2007. The plane was part of a fire brigade that broke down while fighting forest fires in Alanya. In 2005, officials were planning to turn Gazipaşa Airport into an aviation training center, but that did not materialize either. At some stage, the locals used the airport territory to plant vegetables, as the massive investment was totally abandoned.

But now, a successful bidding process has brought the highly reputable TAV, a joint venture between Tepe and Akfen that won the tender for the Gazipaşa airport, to the eastern Turkish Riviera for the next 25 years.

New beginning

Pleasant news regarding the airport once again started to make its way through the region in 2007. This time, the locals didn't take it seriously as they had heard countless similar stories in the past. But a successful tendering process and the immediate start of operational work is finally bringing Gazipaşa Airport's unclear destiny to a shiny new beginning.

TAV Airports won the tender for Gazipaşa Airport for the next 25 years in exchange for 35 percent of the profit and is now getting ready to finalize the preparation stage and to turn on the green light for international flights.

When visiting Alanya in January, TAV Chairman Hamdi Akin announced that the first plane would land in Gazipaşa in June. And on Tuesday, TAV successfully delivered what it promised. According to Akin, Gazipaşa Airport’s current 1,900 meter-runway is capable of handling A-319 Airbuses and would be ready to serve bigger planes such as Boeing 747s once the runway expanded to 2,400 meters of length. That is currently a part of Gazipaşa's gradual development process.

Akin explained that 10-year weather records did not indicate a strong wind problem in the area and did not pose a threat for the planes any different than many other airports in Turkey. During his speech, Akin gave the example of Esenboga Airport in Ankara, which had similar problems. Esenboga is closed for landing occasionally as a result of strong winds in Ankara, which would be the case for Gazipaşa when required.

Initially triggered by Turgut Ozal, a potential 500,000 visitors each year is attracting more local and international investors. Gazipaşa Airport has a 500,000-person capacity per year. It was designed and constructed to include a domestic flights terminal, an international terminal and a VIP entrance.

The airport is installed with and will operate the most up-to-date aviation technology. Work to equip the airport with customs facilities, which will mark the airport as an international destination, is almost complete. Gazipaşa is a candidate to carry the flag of boutique airports in Turkey, which is a scheme executed by TAV and an increasing trend in global aviation. It will probably be the first of its kind in Turkey.

Apart from its capabilities, the airport will create considerable employment opportunities for the locals who have already started to take courses in English. Just after the completion of the tendering process, a group of 100 Finnish investors visited Gazipaşa to search for investment opportunities in the area. The airport will help the eastern Alanya-Mersin root develop and will ease traffic in the western Alanya-Antalya direction. Tourists and visitors who have been suffering long journeys to reach Alanya will have easy access to the area, which was an issue causing significant problems for the development of the region.

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