ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's main international airport in Istanbul is closing and moving to a new base in a massive logistical operation. The relocation of Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores —dubbed the "Great Move"— began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday.
Bilal Eksi, CEO of flagship carrier Turkish Airlines, said 686 semi-trailer trucks and hundreds of other vehicles are moving equipment at night, and planes have started flying to the new airport. The airline said on Twitter that the move was the largest in aviation history, with 10,000 pieces of equipment weighing 47,000 tons, covering an estimated size of 33 football fields.
The Istanbul Airport, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's signature megaprojects, opened partially in October and will serve 90 million passengers annually. It seeks to be the world's biggest when fully expanded in 10 years to serve 200 million passengers each year.
Labor rights groups have said the rush to meet Erdogan's deadline led to workplace accidents and deaths, while environmentalists argued the airport and the infrastructure to serve it destroyed forests and wetlands.
Ataturk Airport, ranked the 17th busiest in the world in 2018, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local on Saturday (2300 GMT Friday).