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JOINT EFFORTS PUTTING BIAP BACK ON RADAR
February 17, 2008
BY Army Spc. Laura M. Bigenho For more than 15 years, Baghdad International Airport has been virtually inactive. After years of trafficking very limited aircraft to and from the airport, Coalition Forces set out to change the way the world sees Baghdad by placing it back in the business race one project at a time.
Army Lt. Col. Jack Pflaumer, BIAP reconstruction deputy director, 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, has seen a lot of progress since efforts began in 2005. With the grand opening of a business center and plans to build a new office tower, hotel and two convention centers, the Langhorn, Pa., native said BIAP is well on its way to rejoining the international business community.
Pflaumer said his team has two objectives: getting BIAP recertified internationally and establishing a commercial economic zone. In doing so, the airport would become the gateway to Iraq while bringing international companies and investors in for the economic recovery effort.
“Our overall (goal) is to reconnect Iraq to the international community, attract businesses that are needed to rebuild this country, create jobs, and teach the Iraqis the standard they need in order to reestablish themselves into the international community,” Pflaumer said.
With the opening of the BIAP Business Center, Pflaumer said visiting companies and investors will have an opportunity to meet in a safe area without having to travel to downtown Baghdad. Once reconstruction efforts are complete, they will also have access to nearby convention centers, lodging and an eight-story office building for those who plan to maintain a presence in Baghdad.
While reconstruction is key to getting BIAP back on track, it is only part of the plan. Terry Biggio, Federal Aviation Administration advisor, BIAP, has been working on the aviation side of the project. Since the Nashua, N.H., native arrived nearly three months ago, he has been helping train Iraqis on the control center and in the tower – a crucial piece of the puzzle in rebuilding BIAP.
“(The Iraqis) haven’t used radar in this area since 1991, so this is a major step forward for this country,” Biggio said.
In order for Iraqis to achieve that step, they must first receive certification from the International Civil Aviation Organization, aviation’s governing body. “We are going to work with them to make sure they are ICAO-compliant so that their aviation system moves up,” Biggio said. Pflaumer said that although security remains an issue, BIAP is relatively safe. Global Security and Iraqi Police forces provide security throughout the airport while fire and emergency medical services are on hand for emergencies.
Khaldoon Yousif, BIAP director, Baghdad, said he recognizes the safety concern, but assures others of security measures to keep travelers safe. Yousif said he wants to see BIAP catch up to other airports around the world.
“This is something I wish people back home could see,” Biggio said. “Just opening up the business center was a monumental occasion, and now being able to talk to controllers who haven’t controlled air space in 15 years; to see them in that radar environment talking with their hands is exciting.”
Pflaumer said it’s a sign Iraqis are continuing to make progress in taking back their country. “We really want to see the government move forward, and we’re seeing signs of that occurring at the airport,” he said. “They are (almost) ready to take over the job of economic recovery of rebuilding their country. It’s very encouraging.”