ⓘ Baghdad International Airport

Baghdad International Airport

ⓘ Baghdad International Airport

Baghdad International Airport, previously Saddam International Airport, is Iraqs largest international airport, located in a suburb about 16 km west of downtown Baghdad in the Baghdad Governorate. It is the home base for Iraqs national airline, Iraqi Airways.


1.1. History Pre-1982

The present airport was developed under a consortium led by French company, Spie Batignolles, under an agreement made in 1979. The Iran/Iraq war delayed full opening of the airport until 1982. The airport at the time was opened as Saddam International Airport, bearing the name of the then Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.


1.2. History 1982–2003

Most of Baghdads civil flights stopped in 1991, when the United Nations imposed restrictions on Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. Because of 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 able to receive occasional charter flights carrying medicine, aid workers, and government officials. Royal Jordanian Airlines operated regular flights from Amman to Baghdad.


1.3. History 2003–2005

In April 2003, US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq and changed the airports name from Saddam International Airport to Baghdad International Airport. The ICAO code for the airport consequently changed from ORBS to ORBI; the IATA code subsequently switched from SDA to BGW, which previously referred to all Baghdad airports and before that to Al Muthana Airport when Saddam was in power.

Civilian control of the airport was returned to the Iraqi Government in 2004.


1.4. History 2005–present

Sather Air Base came under fire from periodic rocket attacks from Baghdad. On 6 December 2006 a 107 rocket attack landed 30 yards meters from a parked C-5A aircraft placing scores of shrapnel holes in the aircraft.

Terminal C has been refreshed with three active gate areas for carriers operating from the airport.

In January 2015, a FlyDubai jet carrying 154 passengers was struck by gunfire as it landed at the airport. One passenger was injured when at least three bullets struck the plane. After the incident, UAE carriers FlyDubai and Emirates suspended their flights from Dubai to Baghdad. Flights by Turkish Airlines and Royal Jordanian were also temporarily suspended.

Baghdad Airport Road, connecting to UAE Green Zone, which was once a dangerous route full of IEDs, has been refurbished with palm trees, manicured lawns, and a fountain, with Turkish assistance.

On 3 January 2020, a U.S. drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, leader of Irans Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, as their convoy left the airport on Baghdad Airport Road.


2. Military use

Within the airport there is a separate enclave called the New Al Muthana Air Base where the Iraqi Air Forces 23rd Squadron is based with three Lockheed C-130E Hercules transport aircraft. It is also home to a number of Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot"s.

Sather Air Base or Camp Sather was a United States Air Force base on the west side of the airport occupied from 2003 to 2011 during the Iraq War. It was named in memory of Combat Controller Staff Sergeant Scott Sather, the first enlisted Airman to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sather was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his leadership of a 24th Special Tactics Squadron reconnaissance task force during the initial stages of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


3. Airport developments

On 18 May 2010, plans were unveiled for an expansion of Baghdad International Airport, which will double its capacity to 15 million passengers per year. The expansion, to be funded by foreign investors, will include the construction of three new terminals and the refurbishment of the existing three terminals, which will each accommodate 2.5 million passengers annually.


4. Incidents and accidents

  • On 29 November 1987, Korean Air Flight 858, a Boeing 707-3B5C, was destroyed by a bomb over the Andaman Sea. The bomb was left by two North Korean agents who had boarded in Baghdad but got off in Abu Dhabi. The plane was flying the Baghdad-Abu Dhabi-Bangkok-Seoul flight. All 104 passengers and 11 crew died.
  • On 26 January 2015, a flydubai Boeing 737-800 flying from Dubai to Baghdad was hit by small-arms fire on approach to Baghdad International Airport with 154 passengers on board. The plane landed safely.
  • On 22 November 2003, a European Air Transport Airbus A300B4 freighter, registered OO-DLL, operating on behalf of DHL Aviation, was hit by an SA-14 Grail missile shortly after takeoff. The airplane lost hydraulic pressure, causing a loss of control. After extending the landing gear to create more drag, the crew piloted the plane using differences in engine thrust and landed the plane with minimal further damage. All three crew survived. Civilian planes now routinely perform corkscrew landings to minimise the risk of damage from surface weapons.
  • On 3 January 2020, the US Air Force launched a drone strike near the airport, killing ten people, including the general in command of the Quds Force of Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qasem Soleimani.
  • On 25 December 1986, Iraqi Airways Flight 163, a Boeing 737-200 flying from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, was hijacked and damaged by a bomb in flight. The bomb exploded in the cockpit, causing the plane to crash in the Saudi Arabian desert, killing 63 of the 106 on board.

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