Knar Babayan

13:30, September 29, 2011

Those waiting for the much ballyhooed opening of the new airport in
the Artsakh capital of Stepanakert will have to wait some more.

The terminal has already been finished, complete with all the trappings
of a modern facility. But the widening of the runway is what is
holding back the airport's operation. Work is only half complete.

Dimitry Adabashyan, Chief of the Artsakh Civil Aviation Department,
says the runway wasn't properly built by Soviet Azerbaijan back in
the day.

It seems the surrounding hills have to be levelled in order to
ensure safe landings and take offs. Adabashyan says that the other,
more costly, alternative would have been to redirect the runway 10
degrees to one side.

He says that the airport now employs some 80 individuals, mostly
construction workers making between 80,000 to 100,000 AMD per month.

Plans are in the works to purchase one Canadian built CRJ 100/200
jet with a 50 passenger capacity.

Fares for the flights between Yerevan and Stepanakert have still to
be negotiated with the Zvartnots Airport administration in Armenia.

"We have proposed a fare of 12,000 to 20,000 AMD. Zvartnots would
pocket 40% of the fares," said Adabashyan.

Regarding flight safety, Norayr Safaryan, director of the yet to be
registered Artsakh Airlines, said flights over territory monitored
by the Artsakh Ministry of Defense could be guaranteed.

Mr. Adabashyan said he had no idea when the first flight would
take off.

"I'm not holding anything back. I just can't say when. You can see for
yourselves the amount of work that still needs to be done. Hopefully,
everything will be finished by the New Year," he said.