Over the past two decades, Sudan has experienced a significant economic growth with the per capita GPD increasing from $360 in 2000 to around $1,480 in 2021. Now with an economy strength close to its neighbors Egypt and Ethiopia, the country has the potential to become an aviation leader in the region with the planned construction of a new international airport in Khartoum that could attract new routes to the region and revamp the Sudanese airspace.
The country currently has 16 airports two of which hold international status and facilitate the most flights, Port Sudan International on the Eastern coast of the red sea, along with Khartoum International Airport in the capital city. They are managed, along with all airspace activity by the Sudan Civil Aviation Authority.
Khartoum International Airport
Khartoum International Airport was constructed in 1947 and first handled light traffic with type DC3 aircraft until increased activity in lead to the airport undergoing its first expansion in the 1970s. With the most recent refurbishment in 2010, today the airport has a single runway of 2980m that is fit to accommodate large modern aircraft commonly used by commercial airlines. Khartoum International is Sudan’s largest and most active airport (serving 3.5 million passengers in 2018) and is the main gateway to the country. It serves as the base of several local airlines including the flag carrier Sudan Airways along with Alfa Airlines SD, Blue Bird Aviation and Nova Airways.
Over the years, with passenger numbers continuing to increase, a lack of facilities and over-capacity traffic have led to daily delays and unfortunately, Khartoum International has grown a reputation for being congested and unreliable with aircraft regularly seen queued up awaiting their turn to take off or to access taxiways.
Furthermore improving the current airport presents a particular challenge since it is located in the center of Khartoum and is surrounded by residential areas. The airport also has insufficient parking capacity shared between employees, car rental services and travellers meaning that expanding the airport to accommodate for more travellers will come with the added necessity of expanding parking facilities.
The result of such inconveniences has led Sudanese authorities to consider building a new airport for the capital instead of making expansions for the existing one.
Port Sudan New International Airport
Found 20km from Sudan’s main seaport, Port Sudan New International Airport has a single runway of 2,500km and sees regular flights from local carriers such as Badr Airlines and Tarco Air. Currently, the airport also accommodates traffic from three international airlines including Saudi, flydubai and Egypt Air. Although Turkish airlines were in talks to give the airport its first direct flights to Europe, the proposal was eventually dropped, keeping Dubai as the airport’s furthest destination.
Although the airport is the second largest in Sudan, with an average of three flights per day, Port Sudan International Airport does not suffer from the same congestion issues as Khartoum International Airport.
Other Domestic Airports
Even with its restraints, Khartoum International Airport is the most developed in the country and the majority of Sudanese airports are very basic and incapable of supporting heavy traffic and large commercial aircraft.
Local airports such as Nyala, Atbara, El Fasher, Obeid and Kassala are served primarily by such airlines as Sudan Airways, Badr, Nova and Tarco. While they are strictly domestic airports, El Fasher is particular in that it receives occasional international charter traffic.
New Khartoum International Airport
Since 2006, the Sudanese government has been attempting to construct a new international airport to meet the growing demand and overcome the congestion of Khartoum International. Several conglomerates were attached to the project including the China Harbour Co. and the Saudi Islamic Development Bank.
The New Khartoum International Airport was to be built through a three-phase project costing $1.15 billion, underway since 2019 by the Turkish contractor Summa and intended to fully replace the current airport, the new facility found at the town of Omdurman, 40km south of the capital city and was expected for completion by 2022.
It would cover a total area of 86,000m² and have two 4000m runways to overcome the delay and overcrowding issues associated with the old terminal. At the first phase of operation, the airport could handle 6 million passengers per year and culminate with 12 million annual voyagers upon its completion.
While currently, the airports in Cairo and Addis Ababa act as aviation portals to North-East Africa, it is hoped that a new Sudanese terminal will be an attractive addition to airline routes given Sudan’s strategic location between Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, the Central African Republic and Chad, along with Libya to the northwest.
Unfortunately, the project is currently at a standstill seeing no progress since 2020 with no clear prospects for the future.
New Airport, New Horizons
Sudan presents a promising scenario of an African country that continues to improve on the economic front, whilst addressing an assortment of political problems and sanctions. Given its geographic position, the country has the potential to emerge as a regional aviation contender. It is worth noting that other, more wealthy countries in Africa such as Botswana have yet to make the advances in aviation that could unfold with the completion of the New Khartoum International Airport. At Eways Aviation we are eager to see Sudan overcome its challenges and grow to be one of the contributors to the North African airspace.