Ops Update: How the New Istanbul Airport will impact business aviation

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Istanbul is becoming an increasingly popular and busy destination for business aircraft travel. Historically, Istanbul’s two airports of entry (AOE), Ataturk (LTBA) and Sabiha (LTFJ), are the most popular destinations for international GA.

However, recent developments, including the opening of the New Istanbul Airport (LTFM) and ongoing runway construction at LTFJ, have made LTBA the preference for many GA operators.

Below is what you need to know about operating a business jet to Istanbul.

1. New Istanbul Airport (LTFM)

Before construction of LTFM, LTBA, which is located near the city of Istanbul, was one of the most heavily congested airports in Europe. Because it is surrounded by urban development, LTBA has no room to expand. As a result, Turkey constructed LTFM with construction starting in 2013 and just finishing in late 2018.

2. Airline traffic diverted from LTBA to LTFM starting April 6, 2019

It was recently announced that effective April, 6, 2019, commercial airline traffic would no longer operate to LTBA and moving forward would go through LTFM.

3. How LTFM will impact business aviation ops at LTBA

LTBA will remain open to business aviation, but because the airport will no longer be congested with airline traffic, arrivals, departure, and taxi time should be significantly improved. As a result, we anticipate that even more business aviation operators will choose LTBA. Ataturk Airport will now be dedicated to private jets only through G.A.T.

4. Considerations when choosing between LTBA and LTFJ

Both LTBA and LTFJ are 24-hour AOEs with 24-hour Customs, Immigrations, and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities for General Aviation (GA). However, due to ongoing runway construction for the next two years, operating to LTFJ will be difficult for GA operators.

5. Distance to city center

LTBA is located closer to the city center (15-miles and an approximately 30-minute drive) than LTFJ which is 22-miles and approximately one-hour to the city center.

6. Slots

Most AOEs in Turkey mandate arrival/departure airport slots. It’s important to note that the slot application process typically takes five business days, compared to just three days for landing permits. Turkey Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) operates an online slot system but it’s a closed system so you’ll need to go through your ground handler to coordinate slots.

Operators and trip support providers are not normally able to view available slots online, or request slots directly. At Istanbul’s two airports you will not get the slot times you are looking for 50% of the time and available slots may not coordinate with your schedule.

Generally, arrival/departure slots will not become available until 2-3 days prior to ops.

  • Note: Obtaining your preferred slot has become particularly challenging recently at LTFJ. Due to the runway construction, slots are only allocated on non-busy hours of the aerodome. It has been our experience that receiving slot confirmations at LTFJ is extremely difficult even with advanced notice requests.

It is always best practice to begin the slot request process at least five days out, so you can monitor the situation and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.

7. Parking – increased challenges at LTFJ

It can be challenging arranging parking at Istanbul airports, particularly for aircraft B737 and larger looking for extended parking (more than 24 hours). Recently, we’ve received reports that long-term parking is not available at LTFJ and that LTBA had more options.

LTFJ is also more expensive. Because there is no long-term parking available, operators must use hangars, which average in cost about $600-$1,000 USD per day depending on aircraft size. Additionally, because only one runway is in use, taxing from the GA runway to the parking area takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Note that when parking at either LTBA or LTFJ, power in/power out parking is not the norm. You will often be towed, and it’s important to confirm that a suitable tow bar is available for your particular aircraft model.

For extended parking, operators should consider using Tekirdağ ÇorluAirport (LTBU), which is about a two-hour drive on the motorway from downtown Istanbul.

8. Fuel

One consideration for operators using LTFJ is that the GA ramp is located far from the international terminal where the fuel browsers are parked. This can cause delays.

9. Handling and facilities

GA operators to Turkey report good ground handing support and infrastructure at major AOEs. While ground support equipment (GSE) is usually more than adequate, it’s always best to confirm tow bar availability if you’re operating a less common type of GA equipment. We’ve recently received feedback from GA operators of transportation of crew and passengers from the aircraft has been chaotic with no direct route to GAT at LTFJ. Feedback has also indicated that operators consider that GAT at LTBA to be superior in quality and comfort to that GAT at LTFJ. Additionally, maintenance support for business jets is often limited at LTFJ with many more options available at LTBA.

10. Hotel accommodations

There are ample options for hotel accommodations near LTBA due to its proximity to Istanbul. However, at LTFJ, the nearest hotel is 25 minutes away from the airport and due to limited capacity the prices are higher than the hotels located near LTBA.

11. CIQ clearance

GA customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) is cleared within general aviation terminals (GATs), at AOEs that have these facilities. It’s usually a quick process, under 15-20 minutes, as most information will have been forwarded in advance. At AOEs without GATs, CIQ clearance is via the main terminal, but processing is usually quick. To expedite CIQ clearance, it’s crucial to keep your handler up to date on any schedule or crew/passengers revisions so that they can update their filings with customs and immigration authorities. Also, ensure that your handler has multiple copies of your updated gen dec.

Conclusion

Recent reports indicate more and more operators prefer using LTBA in favor of LTFJ when operating to Istanbul. With the recent closure of commercial airline traffic at LTBA, and ongoing runway construction at LTFJ, we anticipate even more operators choosing it over LTFJ moving forward, as there will be no slot issues, less taxi time, better services, and overall less congestion while being closer to the city center.


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