Freetown International Airport in Sierra Leone has opened a new 14,000m2 terminal building, which is three times the size of the airport’s existing terminal.
The terminal building, designed with a flowing, wavelike roof, will be able to handle up to 90,000 passengers per month, five times the current capacity, and eight wide-body jets simultaneously. Additionally, the airport has been designed so all its power needs are met by its 1.5MW solar farm.
Operations are due to begin imminently at the new terminal although it is expected to take some months for all activities at the existing terminal to complete the transfer. Construction of the new terminal comes after the recent resurfacing of the 3.2km runway, taxiways and aprons and modernization of the communications beacon. As well as passenger departure and arrivals facilities, the terminal includes a VIP/presidential channel, improved cargo handling and a new air traffic control tower capped by a diamond design to reflect the country’s status as a source of gems.
The new terminal is the latest stage in a development plan to reboot aviation in Sierra Leone, which was once a regional center for flying with numerous scheduled and charter flights to UK and European capitals. The new terminal was built by Turkish construction company Summa, under a ‘build, operate and transfer’ contract worth US$270m signed with the government of Sierra Leone. Under the contract, Summa took on the capital costs involved in construction in exchange for the right to run the airport for 25 years.
The next stage of the development plan is the construction of a 5-star hotel near the airport along with residential and commercial properties, as hotel facilities near the airport currently do not meet the standards required by international carriers such as British Airways. This development is therefore expected to enable aircrew from international airlines to stay overnight and increase the appeal of the airport as an international hub.
According to the airport, its existing terminal, built by the Royal Air Force in the 1940s when Sierra Leone was a British colony, has been refurbished piecemeal and extended repeatedly since independence in 1961. It is located on the southern side of the runway whereas the new terminal is on the northern side. New access roads and lighting have been constructed to connect the new facility with the existing road network outside the airport perimeter. The old building is likely to be taken over by the Sierra Leone Armed Forces as the headquarters of all military air operations.
Julius Maada Bio, president of Sierra Leone, said, “Today is a great day, a new day for all of us. This is the first time in the history of this country that a completely new international airport terminal has been constructed, with the latest technology and the highest compliance standards to make it more attractive to more international airlines. Today we have an ultramodern air terminal that is three times larger than the existing terminal and has brand-new facilities that will accommodate up to a million passengers a year to make it a major transit hub in the subregion. We now have on offer a safer, modern and very comfortable airport.”
Kabineh Kallon, Sierra Leone’s minister of transport and aviation, said, “An airport, as the first point of entry into a country, is the face of that country. This is our airport – the pride of Sierra Leone. Again, let us tell our own story to the world – that Sierra Leone is moving in the right direction, in the new direction. Already, we have at least three more international airlines that have shown interest in landing at this airport.”
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