Built and operated for some 70 years, the Polonia International Airport on the outskirt of Medan city, North Sumatra, will soon become history.
The airport, which was designed to accommodate 900,000 passengers per year, suffered from overcrowding following the soaring number of passengers from time to time.
Besides, the movement of aircraft, passengers, and cargoes at the airport were growing rapidly, and in 2012 alone the number of passengers reached 7.9 million people.
Polonia airport is located too close to the city center of Medan, and consequently it is quite dangerous for both the airplanes and the local residents.
Poor spatial for cafes and souvenir shops which contribute to uncontrollable garbage, in addition to not orderly parking space for taxi, also add to the problems to the airport that have to be overcome by the construction of Kualanamu International Airport.
The construction of the Kualanamu airport began in June 2006, and is slated to start operation on July 25, 2013 as the Indonesia`s second largest airport after Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta.
Kualanamu airport is targeted to replace Polonia International Airport that is situated near the center of Medan and has a difficult takeoff path because of its short runway.
"By the time the Kualanamu airport comes on stream, Polonia will stop its activities for good," Tri Sungkono, the president of the state airport operator PT Angkasa Pura said in a statement last Saturday.
Sungkono noted that the new Kualanamu international airport would start operation on July 25, ending the service of the old Polonia airport.
He added that day before the "soft opening" on July 24 night all aircraft normally to park overnight at Polonia will fly to Kualanamu after disembarkation of passengers and cargo unloaded at Polonia.
At the same time, the airport train linking the airport with the main railway station in Medan would be put into operation.
"The train ticket price is Rp80,000. The airport could also be reached with taxi or buses," he said.
Meanwhile, Air Transport Director General Herry Bakti S Gumay said the operation of the new airport needs support from the provincial administration.
"Facility should be provided such as in land procurement for PT Angkasa Pura II to expand the airport in the future," Herry said, adding that Angkasa Pura should not be left to be in difficulty in land procurement and clearing.
Vice Governor of North Sumatra Tengku Erry Nuradi pledged problem in land procurement such as for toll road or other roads in the province would soon be sorted out.
Therefore he called on all parties in the province to support the soft opening of Kualanamu airport on July 25 because the physical development of the new airport will be completed at the end of this week.
In relation with the supporting activities of the airport such as customs office, quarantine, and immigration, he said they would be ready on time.
North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho said in Medan on Monday that the Kualanamu airport that would start operation on July 25 should reflect the security in North Sumatra.
Therefore he said all roads to the new airport should be free from motorcycle gangs.
"Prevention of criminal acts including motorcycle gangs comes into effect in all areas of North Sumatra, particularly along the roads to Kualanamu airport," the governor said.
Previously there was a discourse that the operation of the new airport be postponed until after the 2013 Lebaran festivity, or after the road access to Kualanamu is 100 percent completed.
But State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said on Tuesday that the schedule of Kualanamu airport operation has been registered in the international flight schedule, and Polonia airport has been erased from the airport map, the new airport operation could not be postponed.
"The transferring of Polonia airport to Kualanamu airport will be done as scheduled, namely on July 25, 2013," the state enterprises minister noted.
Dahlan said he would even spend the night at Kualanamu airport to directly monitor the process of transferring operation from Polonia to the new international airport.
"The Kualanamu International Airport will be officially in operation on Thursday, July 25, and therefore a few hours before the dead line I will be there at the new airport," Dahlan said.
Spread over 1,365 hectares, the Kuala Namu Airport is expected to have a multiplier effect and also become new international transit center in Sumatra island and other western parts of Indonesia.
"The operation of Kualanamu International Airport is believed to attract many domestic and foreign investors to North Sumatra," the deputy chairman for transportation affairs at North Sumatra branch of Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), Ade Putra Pandana Nasution, said in Medan recently.
He said more foreign and domestic investors have explored business opportunity in North Sumatra because for them the new Kualanamu airport would bring such a multiplier effect.
He said foreign investors who have interest to invest in North Sumatra are among others from China, Japan, the Netherlands, and Germany.
"The investors are enthusiastic about investing in North Sumatra. Almost everyday the prospective investors visit Kadin office in the province to obtain first hand information about business prospect following the operation of Kualanamu airport," Nasution said.
Nasution noted that the presence of the new airport in the province would make business climate more promising because it will be of value added for the "Sei Mangkei" special economic zone.
According to him, the prospective investors have expressed their interest to invest in the fields of transportation, energy, hotel, industry, and property.
Joko Waskito, the airport`s project manager, has explained that the 1,365-hectare airport has a terminal area measuring 118,930 sq meters, a parking area measuring 50,820 sq meters and a cargo garage measuring 13,000 sq meters.
"The airport has sophisticated equipment and it can accommodate up to 8.1 million passengers every year," he said.
According to him, the airport has a 3,750 meter long runway, which is 80 meters wide, and 53 airport aprons, where aircraft can be parked, including the Airbus A380. (Antara)