Sharjah Airport Authority will soon award contracts for the construction of a second runway, according to a top official.
The runway, planned as Category 3 (CAT III), will be 4,000 metres long — enough for the landing and take-off of large aircraft.
The current runway handles 220 landings and take-offs per day.
"Our consultants have completed the master plan for the project, which will be tendered out in a few months," Ali Salim Al Midfa, Director of Sharjah Airport Authority, told Gulf News.
"If things work out well, construction should start by next year for the runway to become operational by 2012."
Construction of the runway would be critical for Sharjah International Airport, whose capacity will be exhausted due to strong growth in passenger traffic, driven by Air Arabia's expansion of its fleet and route network.
Besides, the existing runway also needs extensive maintenance, which can only be performed when the new runway becomes operational.
Sharjah has the longest history in the Gulf's aviation industry, dating back to 1932 when Imperial Airways built an airstrip. The Sharjah Government built the present airport in 1977.
The airport's passenger handling capacity, currently at eight million, will be saturated in a few years. "The airport's passenger traffic is growing at 10 per cent year on year, even under the current economic situation. Last year we handled 5.3 million passengers at the airport. This year, the figure could go up to 6 million," he said. He said there is also a plan to build a second terminal. "We have two to three years' time before the airport becomes too congested," he added.
The expansion plan comes against the backdrop of a nearly Dh200 million project in 2006-07 that tripled the airport's size to 18,500 square metres.
Sharjah International Airport, along with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) — the federal aviation regulatory body — is planning
to improve aviation safety by undertaking strict measures governing air operators operating there.
In view of the recent air crash in which all six crew on board died, the airport, along with the GCAA, is planning to ban some foreign
airlines whose safety records are questionable.
"We are closely working with the GCAA in implementing strict safety guidelines to avoid future incidents," Al Midfa said.