Iraqis In Mosul Can Now Fly To Mecca
December 3, 2007
During Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror in Iraq, the luxury of being able to catch a flight from many places in Iraq, was non-existent. One example is the airport in Mosul. For many years it lay in a state of disrepair and for the first time in 15 years, commercial flights can be made from the airport in Mosul, Iraq, starting in mid-December, with the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Though initially the project was behind schedule, it has now been completed and is ready for it’s maiden voyage in mid-December, thanks in part to one man, Mustafa Yoldah. Less than three months after Mustafa Yoldah left his companyâ€™s office in Turkey and came to Mosul with a new foreman and extra workers, the project was finished.
“He made it happen,â€ said Alda Ottley, project engineer for this facility. The terminal is now ready for the more than 2,800 Iraqis who hope to make their way to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in December. A tenet of Islam is that able-bodied Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives.
â€œThe hajj flights will be the first commercial flights since 1993,â€ Ottley said. The original airport was built in from 1992 to 1993, but commercial flights were available for less than a year before the Mosul air space became a no-fly zone.
Due to Mosul being in the declared no-fly zone, the airport fell into disrepair and needed many improvements before planes could safely land and fly out of the airport again. Mosul airport is located between two coalition bases, FOBs Diamondback and Marez. Renovations that have been completed are a new air traffic control tower, as well as a new passenger terminal. The program and construction management at the Mosul airport was a project of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
“Itâ€™s always good to see a project finished, considering the problems we encountered and how we overcame them,â€ Ottley said. â€œI learned from this project â€¦ from a construction and engineering standpoint.
â€œThe government of Iraq has asked for a reduced presence of Americans around the airport when the flights start, but â€¦ we will still be working outside the terminal, asphalting the main roads and the parking lot,â€ she added.
She explained that passengers will be processed through security and baggage checks at another location and then transported directly to the entrance of the passenger terminal.
â€œA hajj committee agent will stay with his or her group of 76 people 24/7 through the entire trip until they return to Mosul,â€ R.C. Shackelford, the provincial program manager for the U.S. State Departmentâ€™s of Iraq Transition Assistance Office in Mosul. â€œThe Iraqi government hopes to have two commercial flights daily to Baghdad by spring, which would be a real boost to the economy.â€
Being able to hop on an airplane whenever we wish, is something that we here in the United States have grown accustomed to over the years. That wasn’t the case during Saddam’s reign and many people made the trip to Mecca on foot or by vehicle. The opening of the Mosul airport will allow the Iraqi’s the opportunity to make that trip in a much easier fashion. Currently, according to Ottley, the baggage claim belts haven’t arrived, however they are scheduled to be there prior to the opening of the airport. This is yet another example of the improvements that are being made daily in Iraq, with the partnership of the government of Iraq and Coalition forces. Improvements that will make the lives of the Iraqi people much easier.