Two airplanes face heightened risk of fire since opening of new Istanbul airport - T24

Two Turkish Airlines airplanes have come close to catching fire at Istanbul’s new airport as a result of uneven tarmac on taxiways, Turkish independent news site T24 quoted unnamed Turkish pilots as saying on Wednesday.

The new airport, one of the mega-projects that have become a hallmark of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule, has been the subject of criticism since it became fully operational in April. Observers have voiced concerns that its construction quality does not meet the international standards and experts have said its location on the Black Sea coast can cause severe problems due to weather conditions and northerly winds.

Turkish pilots told T24 that the taxiways of the airport between the terminals and runways were uneven. As a result, the pilots said they had to use their brakes more than necessary, which put additional pressure on the wheels.

The pilots said the distance to reach the runways took 30 minutes to traverse. “We sometimes wait for 20 minutes for them (the brakes) to cool down before take-off,” a pilot told T24. 

Two airplanes had faced the risk of a fire during landing, the pilots said, adding that the reason of such fire risks could be use of brakes by pilot in order to make it to early exits to taxiways. Pilots do so to decrease the time spent during taxiing, T24 quoted experts as saying.

During the first incident, the plane’s landing gear was successfully cooled before it could burst into flames, the pilots said. In the other incident, which reportedly took place on April 19, the ground services intervened as no fire brigade crew was available. 

Turkish Airlines employees generally live in district close to the closed Atatürk Airport and in the past used the subway to reach to the airport. The pilots said the time spent on commuting to the new airport had significantly increased, which had also spiked costs. 

The pilots said they also faced security risks while trying to reach the new airport. Many use byroads that go through villages, where incidents of robberies have also increased since the opening of the airport, the pilots said.