Duqm: On the Blessed Renaissance Day anniversary, Oman Air's flight landed smoothly on Wednesday at the country's most modern runway in Duqm under the patronage of Minister of Transport and Communications Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Futaisi.
Several high-ranking officials from various government sectors were present on the occasion.
Regarded as the Sultanate's fastest growing economic hub, Duqm is expected to become a gateway for attracting investments.
Located about 550km from Muscat, the early operation of Duqm Airport marks a milestone in Oman's development history.
Duqm Airport is the first domestic airport to start early operation and receive passengers visiting the wilayat. The early operation is aimed at facilitating the movement of passengers and goods, to and from Duqm.
"This is a major milestone in the early operation of the airport. The airport has not been fully completed, and we are going to build the terminal building. However, the government decided to benefit from whatever has been accomplished," Al Futaisi told reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony.
He said the airport's early operation would help facilitate the movement of investors to Duqm and will support the activities going on at the dry dock.
"We will also start some cargo operations as part of this early operation to support (the supply of) some spare parts or transfer of cargo to the dry dock and to the neighbouring oil field probably," the minister said, expressing hope that more airlines would start flights from Duqm once it becomes fully operational.
Oman Air's new service to Duqm consists of four flights per week between Muscat and Duqm on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Al Futaisi said the airport's runway is now considered the most modern runway in the country 'under operation'.
The specifications of this runway are exactly the same as those in Muscat and Salalah airports which are currently under development, he noted, adding that the runway can accommodate the biggest aircraft in the world. "This four-km runway is equipped with the highest quality equipment known worldwide, compliant with all the international standards," Al Futaisi said.
Duqm Airport set to meet business growth demands
He added that the third package would take two years to complete. "The contract has already been awarded and hopefully construction will start very soon."
The works at Duqm Airport were divided into three packages. The first and second packages included the runway, the taxiway that accommodates four flights including Airbus A380. They also included the road network, the rainwater discharge canals, the electricity network and other.
Last June, Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZAD) awarded the contract for the third package, which includes the passenger terminal that stretches over 5,700 square metres and accommodates 500,000 passengers per annum.
Work is also under way at the air cargo building, with a capacity of 25,000 tonnes of cargo items each year that can be expanded in the future to meet the expected growth in business and economic activities.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is constructing three domestic airports namely Sohar, Ras al Hadd and Duqm.
The domestic airports are designed in a way to ensure easy access and exit by passengers in the shortest time possible with enough spaces for future expansion to cater to the growth in passenger traffic and air cargo through horizontal expansion.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, SEZAD chairman, thanked all those who "made this historic day happen."
This early operation will definitely provide an incentive for foreign investment and will thus help expedite the ongoing projects in Duqm which has undergone great development, Al Jabri said.
All the necessary security infrastructure is in place and passengers can save time by using this airport, he added.
In addition, the official noted, "We are also in talks with Oman Air and expect to see flights to Duqm on a daily basis in the future."
Also, in a statement, he commended the success achieved by the Ja'aloni Airport, which started receiving flights from Muscat in November 2012.
"The route facilitated the movement of investors and citizens between SEZAD and Muscat. It also contributed to enhancing tourism activity in Al Wusta governorate," he added.
Ali Zaid Mohammed Al Balushi, operations general manager at the Oman Airports Management Company, hailed the project as one of the most important projects in Al Wusta region and also in the entire country.
"The facility will serve this part of the region, something never experienced before. It will not only benefit the industrial activities but also will serve the people residing here," Al Balushi told the Times of Oman.