Dubai 2007: First runway ready at $33bn Dubai World airport

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Just days before the start of the Dubai air show, the first runway was completed for the massive $33 billion Dubai World Central International Airport (JXB).

The $270 million, A380-capable 4.5km CAT III runway represents the first tender to be fully executed within Dubai World Central (DWC), the mammoth 140km2 urban aviation community at Jebel Ali, which is centred around JXB.

“Everyone has to look to the future,” says Abdulla Al Falasi, DWC’s marketing and corporate communications director as he stood on the centreline of the freshly-completed runway. “What we are building here is not for the next ten or 20 years but for 100 years. Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the Middle East and there we cannot put in a third runway, so we made this airport where we have the land and the space.”

Al Falasi was guiding a party of journalists around the site on the eve of the air show, discussing progress to date and the plans for the period up to first commercial flight, which is expected in 2009.

The first runway – five more are allowed for in the masterplan – was completed on time in the projected 600 days. Designated runway 12/30 because of its geographic location, it will now undergo a period of strenuous testing over the next six months to fulfil its CAT III-C requirements – a precision instrument approach and landing capability with zero-metres visibility for aircraft.

Al Falasi said the first runway and the control tower (now 70% complete) were the priority projects. “We wanted these first because there will be a lot testing of equipment connected with these facilities and that takes time.”

Within the vast complex being carved out of the desert by 9,000 workmen, the headquarters for DWC is under construction, along with the first cargo building. The first passenger terminal, being built by Arabtec/Max Bogel and costing $27m, is 40% complete. Intended for low-cost, regional and charter airline operations – expected to be the first operators at the airport – it is regarded as a “temporary” facility until work begins on the main terminals.

Khalifa Al Zaffin, Dubai World Central executive chairman, says: “The first terminal will cater to 7m passengers annually but will serve to take considerable load off Dubai International Airport in terms of flights over the next three or four years.” The two huge mega terminals and the six concourses designed to handle in excess of 120m passengers annually are currently in the design stage by a team of international architects and technical consultants.

“Taking such huge passenger flows, baggage handling, car parks, check-in counters, security checks, facility management, amenities, flight paths, ground handling, taxiing flows, roads and infrastructure and air traffic control into consideration, has been our first priority in planning the airport,” says Al Zaffin.

The final design for the mega airport terminals will be unveiled in mid 2008. All major projects under phase 1 of the infrastructure masterplan are scheduled for completion between February and June 2008.

Projects include the $250m aprons and associated taxiways, which are already 75% complete; the $30m fuel farms project; and the $33m navigational aids package. Of the 30 tenders already awarded, 20 have been specifically for JXB’s infrastructure and the rest spread of DWC’s real estate and logistics components. The biggest non-JXB tender awarded so far was for the Dubai Logistics City headquarters and office park buildings worth around $400m. DWC will make announcements about the new airport’s heliport and executive jet facilities during the air show.

The overall development is divided into zones. Dubai Logistics City will span 25km2 and will have the capacity to handle 12m tonnes of cargo a year. It will feature its own aviation area and a cluster dedicated to specialised aviation industry suppliers.

Ultimately, it will form one of the world’s first truly integrated multi-modal logistics centres as it will be linked to Jebel Ali Port.

Residential City will be developed in three phases, ultimately becoming home to 250,000 people in a range of accommodation types as well as boasting malls and hotels.

Commercial City will become Dubai World Central’s business and finance hub, catering for 130,000 people working in 850 towers.

Golf Resort will feature two 18-hole courses bounded by 2,500 freehold homes.

The central “zone” will be the airport itself, and its architects are promising a hassle-free, passenger-friendly experience. Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), the $15 billion aerospace business launched in 2006 says Dubai World Central will be the test-bed for inventing a new kind of airport, and it intends to export the concept worldwide.

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