Benazir Bhutto International Airport
|Rawalpindi International Airport|
راولپنڈى بین الاقوامی ہوائی اڈے
|Owner||Pakistan Air Force|
|Operator||Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority|
|Serves||Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area|
|Opened||1930 as RAF Chaklala|
|Passenger services ceased||May 3, 2018|
|Time zone||PST +05:00 ()|
|Elevation AMSL||508 m / 1,667 ft|
Rawalpindi International Airport (Urdu: راولپنڈى ایئر بیس, ICAO: OPRN) is a defunct airport which formerly served the Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area. It was the second-largest airport by air traffic in Pakistan, until 3 May 2018 when it was replaced by the new Islamabad International Airport. Previously also known as the Islamabad International Airport, it was renamed in New Government Of Pakistan in September 2018. The airport handled 4,767,860 passengers between 2015–16, compared to 3,803,060 in 2012-13.
The airport was located in the area of Chaklala in Rawalpindi, which neighbours Islamabad. Following the establishment of the new Islamabad International Airport, the airport is no longer used for civil aviation and now forms a part of the adjoining PAF Base Nur Khan (also known as PAF Base Chaklala).
History and statistics
In the fiscal year 2008–2009, over 3,136,664 passengers used the former Benazir Bhutto International Airport and 34,025 aircraft movements were registered. The airport served as a hub for the flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines. It was also the hub of Shaheen Air International and a focus city of airblue.
The government launched a Rs. 399 million project to renovate and expand the airport including the 518 by 23 m (1,700 by 75 ft) taxi way link adjacent to the lone runway of the airport. The renovation was completed by March, 2015.
The last flight to depart from this airport was PK791 operated by Pakistan International Airlines, heading for Birmingham, UK which departed at 11:39 AM PST marking the end of scheduled commercial flights to the airport.
A new airport was constructed in Fateh Jang, Attock District, approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of the twin cities. It was built to replace the existing Benazir Bhutto International Airport in response to increasing air traffic and passenger load. Once completed it was the first greenfield airport in Pakistan and the first to support the landing of Airbus A380. Build on an area of 3,289 acres, the project consisted of 90 check-in counters and a parking facility for 2,000 vehicles and will cater to upward of 10 million people every year in its first phase and up to 25 million in the second phase. The terminal includes 15 gates with ten remote gates, a four-star hotel, duty-free shops, two runways, six taxiways, food court and 42 immigration counters. The airport is connected to Islamabad via the Kashmir Highway and Rawalpindi via the GT Road. The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus is also being expanded to connect the airport with the metropolitan area. The airport was opened for commercial flight operations on 3 May 2018.
Benazir Bhutto International Airport was a civil and military airport which handles VIPs as well as public scheduled operations for many airlines. Foreign diplomats, high level government officials, as well as military officials are welcomed at this airport.
The airport was only able to handle eleven wide body aircraft at one time, with additional five parking places for general aviation aircraft. It could not accommodate large aircraft such as the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 747-8. This airport does not have any air bridges installed, so buses took the passengers from the airport terminal to the aircraft where air stairs are used.
Since the airport was built on an airfield, the Pakistan Air Force has taken ownership of the apron and old terminal building of the airfield in a similar fashion to when Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport moved its terminals.
The runway is expected to remain in use by the PAF in the near future and VIPs and other dignitaries will continue to use the airbase instead of Islamabad International Airport.
General aviation by private companies is also expected to continue to use this airport instead of the new Islamabad International Airport.
Accidents and incidents
- On 1 August 1948, an Onzeair Avro 691 Lancastrian XPP crash landed at the airport, due to poor adjustment by the foreign pilot and insecure cargo loads in the cabin causing the weight to alter causing the aircraft to become unbalanced. The aircraft was written off.
- On 18 May 1959, a PIA Vickers 815 Viscount skidded off the runway causing the aircraft to stop in a monsoon ditch. The aircraft suffered substantial damage; no crew or passengers were harmed in the accident.
- On 4 February 1986, a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 747-200 Combi performed a belly landing at the airport. Apparently the crew had failed to release the landing gear on final approach. No passengers or crew were hurt and the aircraft received minor damage.
- On 15 February 2002, Erik Audé was arrested at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (then named Islamabad International Airport) for opium possession.
- During October 2005, Islamabad handled additional aircraft that provided aid for the affected people of Kashmir after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. The largest of these aircraft was the An-225 Mriya. Virgin Atlantic Airways operated a special relief flight to Islamabad using a Boeing 747 with 55 tonnes of aid.
- On 28 July 2010, Airblue Flight 202, a domestic flight from Karachi operated by Airbus A321 AP-BJB, crashed into the Margalla Hills in Islamabad while trying to land at the airport. The aircraft crashed into mountainous and wooded terrain near the city, killing all 152 people on board.
- From 8 to 11 February 2011, there was a workers' strike at the airport against the selling of destinations to Turkish Airlines and the sacking of six Pakistan International Airlines pilots. This led to the resignation of the managing director of PIA Capt.Aijaz Haroon and caused the cancelling of many flights.
- On 20 April 2012, a Boeing 737-200 (AP-BKC), Bhoja Air Flight 213 Karachi's Jinnah International Airport destined for Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport crashed near Chaklala, killing all 127 people on board. Pakistani Defence Ministry officials believe that the plane crashed into a remote residential area. There were also bad weather conditions, with lightning and rain pouring at the time of landing. Eye-witness reports say that the aircraft was already on fire on its landing approach before it crashed. Initial reports suggest that as the pilots of Bhoja Air Flight B4-213 attempted to land amidst rain and strong winds, the ill-fated aircraft might have flown into an unexpected wind shear that possibly smashed it on the ground below. The aircraft had been retired by Shaheen Air and then acquired and placed in service by Bhoja Air in March 2012.
- Islamabad International Airport
- List of airports in Pakistan
- Airlines of Pakistan
- Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority
- Transport in Pakistan
- "PM names Islamabad Airport as Rawalpindi International Airport - GEO.tv". Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- caapakistan.com.pk – Major Traffic Flows By Airport During The Year 2008–09 Archived 13 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- Iftikhar A. Khan. "Islamabad airport set to get a new look". Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- "'Rs399m spent on renovation, expansion of Islamabad airport'". Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- "New Islamabad International Airport to be operational from May 3: official". www.geo.tv. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
- Virgin Atlantic Operates Relief Flight To Islamabad, Pakistan[permanent dead link]
- Ground breaking ceremony of new Islamabad airport likely in April, Business Recorder (Pakistan's Financial Daily Newspaper), 2005-03-03.
- CAA initiates $300m new Islamabad airport (NIIA), Pakistan Link Headline News, 2006-01-07.
- CAA initiates $300m new Islamabad airport project, The News Business Section, 2006-01-07.
- New Islamabad International Airport ready for ground breaking Ceremony, PakTribune, 2006-02-07.
- Turkish Airlines wants to operate daily flights to Karachi, The News, 2007-07-10.
- Progress in THY's Pakistan flights, Turkish Daily News, 2007-07-19.
Media related to Benazir Bhutto International Airport at Wikimedia Commons