Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Baghdad International Airport
Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the airport was named Saddam International Airport after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Although the name was changed in the invasion's wake, Baghdad retains its former IATA airport code of SDA. Its ICAO airport code is ORBS.
Saddam International Airport was constructed with the assistance of French firms between 1979 and 1982. It was designed to accommodate both civil and military operations, and can handle up to 7.5 million passengers per year in aircraft of all sizes.
It was once the hub for Iraq's international airline, Iraqi Airways, and was served by several other international airlines. On December 25, 1986, an Iraqi Airways Boeing 737 flying from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan was hijacked. It later crashed in Saudi Arabia, killing 63 people. (See Iraqi Airways Hijacking.)
Most of Baghdad's civil operations stopped in 1991, when the United Nations imposed restrictions on Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. Due to the no-fly zone imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Kingdom, Iraqi Airways was only able to continue domestic flights for limited periods. Internationally, Baghdad was only able to receive occasional charter flights carrying medicine, aid workers, and government officials.
On April 3, 2003, the airport was occupied by United States forces just prior to the invasion of Baghdad. After taking control of the airport, U.S. forces announced that they had renamed it from "Saddam International Airport" to "Baghdad International Airport". Allegedly, during this operation, US troops vandalized the terminal building substantially, including looting liquor and expensive watches from the then-closed duty free shops.
By mid-year, the airport was occupied by a small city of tents and trailers housing 10,000 American servicemen. USAID provided a budget of over $17 million to restore the terminal and airfield to operational status. Among other improvements, a complete Burger King restaurant was imported from the United States piece by piece; it opened in June 2003. Terminal C, one of three gate areas, has been spruced up with new potted plants and polished floors. The duty-free shop has reopened as well.
The airport officially reverted to civilian control on August 25, 2004. Iraqi Airways and Royal Jordanian Airways currently operate regular flights to Amman, Jordan, and DHL operates civilian cargo service. However, the airport's perimeter is regularly threatened by Iraqi insurgents; aircraft taking off and landing at the airport climb and descend in a spiral pattern directly over the airport in order to avoid coming within range of small arms and missiles on the ground. The terminal area is currently secured by a private force of 500 Iraqi and Gurkha guards. The main road from the airport to downtown Baghad is infamous as one of the most dangerous routes in the world.
On Nov 8, as part of a general US and Iraqi assault against Fallujah, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi closed the airport for 48 hours, with the stated reason of preventing terrorists from leaving the country.
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