New runway, seaplane terminal open at main int'l airport

The new runway at Maldives' main international airport, Velana International Airport (VIA), has been opened.

The new runway was built under a China EXIM bank loan of USD 373 million by China's Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG). The new runway is built to the "Code F" standard for the world's largest aircraft. The runway, which is 3,400 meters in length and 60 meters wide, was opened on September 5, 2018, by former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom.

An Etihad A380 was the maiden flight to land at the new runway at a special ceremony held to open the runway. However, scheduled flights did not land at the runway as some work on the runway was still incomplete. Since February this year, airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has been using the runway as a temporary taxiway.

The runway and the airport's new seaplane terminal were officially opened and put into service at the VIA today. The runway and the terminal were inaugurated by Vice President Faisal Naseem. The first flight to land at the airport since the runway for its intended purpose was a Boeing 777 Turkish Airline flight.

The new runway will reduce the time it takes to land and park flights at the airport. It can accommodate 21 flights per hour, while the old runway could accommodate eight flights per hour. The new runway will also greatly ease the operation of the VIA.

The former runway, which is nearly 60 years old, will now be used as a parking space for flights. In the past, a plane could go to the apron and park a flight in 15 minutes, but the process now takes three minutes with the new runway. The change will increase landing capacity by 38 percent.