Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Bayraktars Over Bakırköy

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Spectacular footage shows Bayraktar Akıncıs and TB2s coming in to land at Istanbul Atatürk Airport in preparation of Teknofest 2021. Their approach and landing could be neatly followed thanks to the camera located in the tail section of both types of unmanned aerial combat vehicles (UCAVs). The Akıncı and TB2 are just but a few of the systems showcased during this year's iteration of Teknofest. For Baykar specifically, the Bayraktar DİHA (VTOL UAV) also made its first public appearance.

Teknofest was held for the first time at Istanbul Airport in September 2018 by the Turkish Technology Team (T3) Foundation. The goal of the event, apart from the obvious purpose of entertainment, is to increase awareness about technology and inspire future generations to choose a path in the fields of science and technology. Any advanced industry depends on inspiring young people to continue the progress today and to take on future challenges, and this situation is no different in Turkey.

Teknofest is jam-packed with technology competitions, exhibitions and displays and aviation demonstrations. The 2021 edition has already seen some technology competitions being held prior to the main event. The festival features dozens of competitions in categories such as smart transportation, helicopter design, biotechnology, robotics, flying cars, rockets and unmanned underwater vehicles. Last year, the event was organized virtually in Gaziantep Province due to limitations imposed by COVID-19. In 2019, some 1.70 million people visited the event in Istanbul. [1]
An Akıncı shortly before touching down on the runway of Atatürk Airport. Also note the blue and white Airbus A300 parked in a remote corner of the airport. The A300 is one out of three aircraft that used to belong to Bosphurus European Airways' (BEA). Unfortunately for BEA, its operations lasted for only six months (from March until August 2002) until money ran out. The disused aircraft were subsequently stored at Atatürk Airport waiting for a new owner or scrapping. You can read our coverage on BEA and its A300s here.
After a brief touch down on the runway, the Akıncı lifts off again, revealing numerous cargo ships in the Sea of Marmara. Atatürk Airport is located nearby the proposed location of the Istanbul Canal, a project for an artificial waterway that will connect the Black Sea to Mediterranean Sea. The new waterway is meant to ease traffic in the Bosphorus, where traffic congestion sometimes leaves ships queuing for days to pass through it.

A Bayraktar TB2 comes in to land at Atatürk Airport. Atatürk IAP was the main international airport serving Istanbul until April 2019 when all passenger flights were transferred to the new Istanbul Airport situated 40km northwest of the city. Since then, the airport has been open only for cargo flights, general aviation, military, business and diplomatic flights and of course, Teknofest! Atatürk Airport is also home to the Turkish Air Force's Sparrow Flight flying T-41D basic trainers, the Military Air Traffic Control Command and the Istanbul Aviation Museum. The military aspect of the area hardly ends here however, as the Air Force Academy is located just across the road.

After the transfer of operations to the new Istanbul Airport, Atatürk Airport was supposed to lose one of its two runways. The many hangers located on the northwestern side of the airport will remain open for maintenance of private and commercial aircraft however. Since May 2020, a chunk of the closed runway is occupied by the Yeşilköy Prof. Dr. Murat Dilmener Emergency Hospital. The hospital was built specifically for use in emergency situations like pandemics or earthquakes and construction started soon after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Turkey.

Safe landing!

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