New Wings in
A b u D h a b i
By Al Habtoor Engineering Corporate Affairs
Perspective view of the Airport
Abu Dhabi unveiled several huge and progressive plans for 2007 and as a
result Abu Dhabi International Airport is currently buzzing with activity. The
building of the Etihad Interim Terminal has been entrusted to an Al Habtoor
Engineering (HEE) and Murray & Roberts Joint Venture. HEE’s expertise in airport
construction projects, a result of its 11 year association with Dubai
International Airport, proved to be wholly invaluable during the planning stages
of the design. Referred to as construction site number 822, the Client is SCADIA
(Supervision Committee for the Expansion of Abu Dhabi Airport). The Programme
Manager is Parsons International Limited and the Resident Engineer is Morganti.
The project officially kicked off on the 14th of September 2006 and is
now surging ahead with excavations and piling work in full flow.
The structure involves an extension to the existing airport and is exclusive to
Etihad Airways. It will form a connection to the existing Terminal 1 facility
where there will be a total of 9 aircraft docking bays, two of them custom
designed for the enormous new Airbus A380.
This is a complex and large project and the potential for disaster is huge; even
quite trivial mistakes could lead to serious difficulties. Discussing the design
and structure, Mr. Raed Hammad, the project manager of site number 822
recounted, “I remember an amusing incident when a typing error occurred in the
docking bay measurement figures and the numbers got reversed. So the length was
stated as 5.7 metres instead of 7.5 metres. This was not discovered till we
actually started planning and sensed something wrong. A closer look revealed the
slip. Thankfully the situation was in control before it could have had any
The project site is located to the North and West of the existing Terminal 1 and
will be known as Terminal 3. The new facility will include First and Business
Class Lounges, 25 check-in desks, approximately 3,000m2 of duty free space,
restaurant and food courts, passenger screening checkpoints, customs,
immigration, etc. The whole project is planned in phases and on three levels -
Apron, Departures, and Arrivals.
Each of the 9 docking bays is a 36 metre long corridor. These massive structures
are single pieces, manufactured in Germany and arriving in the UAE by ship.
Transporting them from the docks to the airport is going to be a tough job.
Imagine a 36 metre long truck on the road! It’s a major challenge for HEE which
they have solved by attaching wheels directly to the docking bay itself making
it possible to wheel it all to site relatively easily.
Amazingly work is carried out right inside in the environs of an active airport.
Each individual working at this site normally requires two security passes, one
for Airside, and the other for Landside. Organising these official passes for
the 2000 people expected at the project’s peak poses a complex problem and so as
a strategic move, in order to minimise both the logistics and any possible
security issues, the whole airport fence was remade to ensure that the entire
construction area is landside.
There are two other challenging areas to be dealt with. Firstly, the work is
being carried on in a live, working airport which means security must never be
compromised and passengers must never be inconvenienced by the construction
itself. Secondly, there are complex automated systems and machinery including
X-ray machines, immigration systems, baggage–handling systems and dozens of
others which need to continue to work and then transition smoothly on
completion. Fortunately these systems are essentially similar to those at Dubai
Airport, which means HEE’s experience makes a whole world of difference.
But there are some things in a lighter vein that have to be taken care of. So
for example they have to keep the work areas extremely clean and free from any
kind of foodstuffs, making cleaning a 24/7 chore. Because food attracts birds
and birds are very bad news for aircraft. They get sucked into engines or smash
into cockpits during take off or landing: not something any airline wants to
deal with if they can avoid it!
And finally let’s just think about the curtain wall that will run around the
airport. It needs to be high and able to withstand the vibrations created by the
noise of aircraft engines blasting away at full thrust. Actually, this is quite
an engineering feat in itself.
HEE is up to the challenges and by the time the new terminal is up and running
there will be another feather in the cap of the company who built so many of the
UAE’s landmark properties.
Perspective view of the Airport