Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio, has opened a new modern terminal at Freetown Airport.
The opening marks a historic milestone as it is the first new international airport terminal since the country gained independence in 1961 and opens up the potential for the West African state to serve as a regional aviation hub.
Built by Turkish construction company, Summa at a cost of US$270 million, the 14,000 sq.m. terminal building, which features a flowing wave like roof is three times the size of the airport’s existing terminal, which was built by the Royal Air Force in the 1940s. It will be able to handle up to 90,000 passengers per month, which is five times the current capacity and eight widebody jets simultaneously.
New departure and arrivals areas are complemented by 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 some of the world’s finest gems.
“Today is a great day, a new day for all of us,” said President Bio speaking at the official opening. “This is the first time in the history of this country that a completely new international airport terminal has been constructed, one that has the latest technology and the highest compliance standards to make it more attractive to international airlines.
“Today we have an ultramodern air terminal that is three times larger that 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 sub-region. We now have on offer a safe, modern and very comfortable airport.”
Sustainability has also taken centre stage within the new terminal’s design. All the facility’s power needs will be met by its 1.5 megawatt solar farm.
Construction of the new terminal follows the resurfacing of the airport’s 3.2km runway, taxiways and aprons and is in line with the country’s plan to reboot the country’s aviation sector.
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 a new direction. Already, we have at least three more international airlines that have shown interest in landing at this airport.”
Summa who managed the construction of the terminal took on the capital costs involved in construction in exchange for the right to run the airport for 25 years, generating earnings to cover the outlay for the construction, before handing over ownership to the Sierra Leone Government.
Future development plans in and around the airport include the development of a five-star hotel in close proximity to the terminal, to accommodate visitors and crew.
Operations are due to begin imminently at the new terminal with the transfer of all activities from the existing terminal to the new one expected to last several months.