New control tower in the style of a falcon will form centrepiece of the upgrades
Fujairah airport expansion will allow it to handle Airbus A380
Major expansion plans for Fujairah airport will see the runway upgraded to handle planes as large as an A380, as the emirate sets its sights on welcoming more visitors to the east coast.
The tendering process is complete, construction firms are to be announced soon and all works are scheduled to be finished by 2020, officials said.
The plans include a new control tower in the style of a falcon, runway upgrades to handle wider and heavier planes, and a parallel taxiway where aircraft can queue up.
The work is being funded by the Federal Government in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Airports company and is part of Sheikh Hamad Al Sharqi, the Ruler of Fujairah’s development plans for the strategically important emirate.
Fujairah is the only emirate fronting the Indian Ocean, the main port is being developed and an oil pipeline from Abu Dhabi is also in operation.
“It is an exciting time to be at Fujairah International Airport,” Charles Hajdu, the acting general manager of the airport told The National during a tour of the airport.
“The airport expansion will begin a new era," he says bringing in. [It will bring] improved efficiencies of airport operations as well as opening the potential for new opportunities for business development.”
Most planes at Fujairah take off and land towards the coast. The proposed second runway will realign movement plan will reposition the runway away from the mountains meaning planes can more easily approach land and take off from both directions. The 3,750-metre long runway will also be widened from 46m to 60m as an extra measure to , a proportion which can accommodate the world's largest passenger plane - Airbus A380s - as a scheduled service. Currently A380s can only land at Fujairah if it needs to be diverted.
The new control tower will be taller and will have has a falcon design. The parallel taxiway will allow aircraft to quickly enter and exit the runway, boosting efficiency. It can also function as an emergency runway as it’s envisaged the original runway will need to be resurfaced.
In 1992, Fujairah had 1,000 passengers a day. But numbers declined after that and, by a 2012 article in The National, Fujairah was described as an airport in waiting.
Six years on, the runways, check-in desks and e-gates are still quiet when compared with the hubs at Abu Dhabi and Dubai. A terminal building that can accommodate two million passengers a year only deals with an average of 35,000.
But Mr Hajdu said that figure is rising. One of the factors hampering growth is the lack of a scheduled passenger service or base airline but about 50 charter tourist flights currently arrive every year. On Tuesday, an Enter Air tourist charter arrived from Poland.
“This is an increasing trend. We are aiming to quadruple these numbers over the next five years,” said Mr Hajdu.
It is true that the Al Aqah area is expanding. A new Intercontinental hotel is the latest to open on the resort strip. According to the official Fujairah statistical yearbook, there were 764,734 hotel guests in 2016, up from 707,436 in 2014.
“We support the efforts of the Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority, both with inbound agencies on fact-finding missions and with our presence at international exhibitions such as World Travel Market,” said Mr Hajdu.
Fujairah airport, meanwhile, is used for flight instruction, a place for diversions because it is not affected much by fog and for cargo aircraft maintenance. But the majority of flights at Fujairah are cargo. There are up to ten commercial flight movements a day and the largest plane to have landed at Fujairah was the Antonov 124 – a freighter which is still the largest military transport aircraft in the world.
A lot of the cargo comes by road from Jebel Ali and flown out to Africa on aircraft such as Russian Ilyushins that are suitable for landing at more remote airfields not serviced by the likes of Emirates. Most of the cargo is export but an increasing trend is the import of live animals during Ramadan.
Other developments at Fujairah include the removal of some of the older Soviet era-planes abandoned at the airport over the past few years, making space for new aircraft hangars and parking facilities. Hawker Pacific have also established a facility there for maintenance of helicopters.
The news has also been welcomed by international aviation experts. Alan Peaford, editor of Arabian Aerospace, said Fujairah has great potential.
“Despite the number of major airports already established in the UAE, there is still a need for development of secondary or alternate airports,” he said. “These need to have the same high standard infrastructure and safety standards as the majors. This work … makes that happen.”