Baghdad International Airport could be ready to receive commercial passenger flights later this month, but with severely limited ground services.

Washington DC-based SkyLink Air and Logistic Support is managing the airport under a $2.5 million initial contract that also includes management of Basra International, Mosul and two other domestic airports. "We remain on target to open Baghdad airport to limited commercial operations in mid-July," it says, adding that commercial freight operations "should commence approximately 60-90 days following the reopening for passenger flights".

Iraq's US-led interim administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), has begun inviting airlines to submit formal applications to serve Baghdad. Airlines in Europe, the Gulf and the USA have expressed a desire to open or resume routes to Iraq. The CPA will this month select the companies judged best placed to serve "the reconstruction efforts to develop the Iraqi economy and restore its civil aviation services".

Selected airlines will be expected to conduct at least two weekly flights and the CPA says that carriers should prepare for maximum 2h turnarounds with no fuelling, catering or other ground services.

Air operations in Iraq are overseen by the Regional Air Movement Control Centre (RAMCC), which carries out a similar function in Afghanistan. US authorities will provide air traffic radar separation services.

RAMCC says that the extent of the facilities which will be available to commercial airlines at Baghdad has yet to become clear. The country's air navigation infrastructure is in poor condition, with virtually all ground-based VOR navigation aids inoperative. The military remains extremely cautious about the air traffic situation and authorities have warned all flights to obey procedures strictly or risk interception by fighter aircraft.

Source: Flight International