AT THE BEGINNING OF JULY THE PEOPLE OF KAZAKHSTAN CELEBRATED A BIG HOLIDAY – THE DAY OF ASTANA. PAYING HOMAGE TO THIS HOLIDAY, SKY MAGAZINE HAS PREPARED A HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE CAPITAL’S AVIATION DEVELOPMENT.
IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT ASTANA’S CIVIL AVIATION CELEBRATES ITS 85TH ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
Astana International Airport today is one of the most modern airports in Eurasia. Its roots go back to the far 1930 when a little airdrome was built 3 km away from the city of Akmolinsk (one of Astana’s historical names). The territory of the airport represented a square field for takeoff and landing with an adobe terminal consisting of 8 rooms with a small hall, a 2-room house for pilots, a basement petrol storage and an adobe oil-heating premise (for oil and water heating). Telephone was the means of communication between the city and the airdrome besides the pedestrian pathway and a ferry (there was no bridge over Ishim yet). The airdrome did not operate in the period of floods.
Transportation of passengers and cargoes was arranged with K-4, K-5, PR-5, P-5 and P-2 airplanes.
At the beginning air transportation used to be irregular and the schedule looked something like this: “The departing flight is on Monday morning” or “on Wednesday at sunrise”. The first regular flight was established on December 1, 1931, between Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk. Since then December 1 has been the day of the foundation of Astana Airport.
On February 28, 1966, when the future capital was already named Tselinograd, a new air terminal was commissioned and in June of the same year all the services of the united squadron moved to the new airport. Later on April 21, 1969, the air fleet of Tselinograd squadron was equipped with its first AN-24 plane and later the aircraft inventory was fully renovated that allowed further growth of passenger, mail and cargo transportation. New air routes appeared connecting Tselinograd with many other Soviet cities.
AKMOLA – ASTANA
Tselinogad was renamed as Akmola when Kazakhstan became independent in 1991. In 1998 the city became the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan and received its modern name – Astana. It was a new historical milestone in the city’s development and in the development of its aviation. The relocation of the capital resulted in active development of the airport’s life. Starting from 1998 a wide reconstruction of the airport has been carried out: the paved runway length was extended up to 3500 m while taxi ways and airside were widened within a brief period of time. The lighting system and radio navigation equipment have been replaced, a new VIP building has been erected and the air terminal complex has been rehabilitated. A large international project of Astana Airport reconstruction was carried out between 2002 and 2005. On February 2, 2005, the building of the new passenger terminal celebrated its official opening.
Literally everything in the airport has changed. Nowadays it can accommodate any type of aircrafts with up to 500 t weight under any weather conditions without limitations. The cargo terminal has been fully modernized (new equipment for cargo screening, weighing, registering and handling). Now the airport is almost fully automated. Electronic check-in, automated screening system and cargo services have considerably improved the quality of aviation safety and service.
There have been changes in the number of passengers too. Over the past 18 years, the passenger traffic has grown by 15 times: from 200 thousand people to 3 million passengers per year.
Currently Astana Airport has established successful partner relations with 20 airlines. SCAT Airlines, for instance, has been the airport’s partner for 18 years since the first Astana- Shymkent flight back in 1998. AirAstana has been collaborating with Astana Airport for over 14 years – the first flight was on May 15, 2002, between Almaty and Astana. New airlines, such as Bek Air (since June 1, 2012) and QazaqAir (since July 6, 2015) have been gradually increasing the number of their destinations.
With growing passenger traffic, many foreign airlines keep supporting their partner relations with the airport:
• Austrian Airlines- Vienna-Astana since September 1998;
• Uzbekistan Airways- Tashkent-Astana since April 2005;
• Lufthansa- Frankfurt-Astana since March 26, 2006;
• Turkish Airlines- Istanbul-Astana since October 19, 2005;
• Ukraine International Airlines- Kiev-Astana since April 2010; • Etihad Airways- Abu Dhabi-Astana since May 7, 2009;
• Rossiya Airlines- Saint Petersburg-Astana since 2007;
• Belavia- Minsk-Astana since June 29, 2007;
• Air Arabia- Sharjah-Astana since November 14, 2005;
• China Southern Airlines- Ürümqi-Astana since July 24, 2006; • Asiana Airlines- Seoul-Astana since August 8, 2015;
• Flydubai- Dubai-Astana since October 26, 2015.
• A recent new partner of Astana Airport is KLM: The airlines have started operating a flight to Amsterdam.
In summer 2016 some new destinations of tourist charter programme to Batumi and Sochi have been added for the first time.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE
Today the airport of the capital provides all kinds of airport services at the highest international level. Having modern specialized equipment, unlimited advertisement possibilities, experienced personnel and everything required, Astana Airport is moving forward and developing its network.
At the threshold of the International Specialized Exhibition EXPO- 2017 a new passenger terminal is under the construction. The 60.3 billion tenge project is financed with the state budged and own and borrowed funds. The construction works commenced in November 2014 are expected to be completed by the 1st quarter of 2017.
The total area of the new terminal is 47 thousand square metres that ensures receiving and serving more passengers. The capacity of the existing terminal is 3 million passengers per year while the design capacity of the new one is 4.6 million people per year. So Astana Airport will be able to serve over 7.5 million passengers annually!