The government has moved to construct a second runway and a third terminal building at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to handle growing air traffic in the country.
The move comes months after the authorities concerned abandoned a plan to build a new international airport to be named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Aviation experts had suggested expansion of the airport instead of constructing a new one.
Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) has already published an advertisement in newspapers inviting expression of interest from international consultancy firms by April 11 for feasibility study, planning, design, documentation and estimation of the project.
The scheme aims at meeting the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards and facilitating operations of new generation aircraft.
“The firm winning the bid will be given one year to complete its consultancy job. The new runway and terminal building will be constructed based on the consultant's report,” said Sudhendu Bikash Goswami, chief engineer of Caab.
Presently, the annual growth rate of passengers and freight at the airport is 13 percent. If the growth rate remains unchanged, expansion of the airport will be required after 2018, he added.
The country's premier airport is capable of serving eight million passengers annually, though it now serves around 5.3 million. It also handles 1,50,000 tonnes of freight and mail a year.
Upon completion of the expansion work, the airport's passenger and freight capacity will at least be doubled.
Shahjalal airport started operations in 1980 in an area of 1,981 acres.
bWith its lone 10,500 feet long tarmac, the airport can handle 25 planes per hour, though the number now usually varies from 10 to 11, said Caab sources.
Once the airport is expanded, its flight operation capacity will be more than 50 aircraft per hour.
Civil Aviation Minister Faruk Khan recently said there is no alternative to building the second runway as the lifespan of the only runway will expire in next 10 years as per international rules.
Construction of the new runway would not be an easy job as many high rises have sprung up in the north and north-western sides of the airport over the years, mentioned Caab officials.
“We had asked the Rajuk not to permit any high rise around the airport without prior consultation with the Caab, but to no effect,” rued a top Caab official.
Another official, however, said there would apparently be no obstacle in the funnel (the path for landing and take off of aircraft) if the second runway is built to the west of the existing runway. In that case, the government will have to acquire some land.
If necessary, noted Faruk Khan, the government will readjust the land for the new runway.
As per international rules, a runway can have three asphalt overlay with each having a lifespan of 10 years. On expiry of the lifespan, the whole runway of Shahjalal airport will be dug out and rebuilt, added the minister.
It will take one year to build the runway anew on the same surface, maintained Faruk. “If we don't build the second runway, the airport will be totally shut. We have to decide in the next few months about where and how we'll build the new runway.”
However, an aviation engineer seeking anonymity contradicted the views of the minister.
Using modern technology, a 300 feet stretch of the runway can be built every day without hampering flight operations, he pointed out.