Dubai International Airport marks its golden anniversary today following 50 years of growth from a humble beginning in 1960 to a global aviation hub.In 1959, the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, ordered the construction of the airport, which comprised a 1,800 metre airstrip of compacted sand, an apron, a fire station and a small terminal building. The facility was officially inaugurated on September 30, 1960.
"The 50th anniversary of Dubai International is a historic milestone that marks 5 glorious decades of growth and achievement, thanks to the vision of the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who understood the amazing potential of aviation and took the initiative to build the airport and promote an open skies policy," said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Chairman of Dubai Airports.
"It is a vision that has been carried forward strongly by our leader Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and has effectively positioned Dubai at the heart of global aviation."
Starting with annual traffic of a few thousand passengers during its first year of operation, Dubai International reached 1 million passengers in 1974, with the 5 million passenger mark achieved 16 years later in 1990. Passenger traffic surpassed 10 million in 1999, largely enabled by a series of expansion and refurbishment projects - including the construction of a second terminal (Terminal 2), two asphalted runways, a new air traffic control tower, an extended terminal building and major equipment upgrade - all of which were carried out to accommodate the robust traffic growth.
The airport got a major addition to its infrastructure in the form of Sheikh Rashid Terminal, also known as Concourse 1 in April 2000, more than doubling the airport's annual capacity from 10 million to 23 million passengers.
The airport surpassed 20 million passengers in 2004. A mere three years later that total ballooned by another 14 million to top 34 million passengers.
To accommodate the rapid expansion, on October 14, 2008, Dubai Airports turned heads globally with the flawless opening of the world's single largest terminal building, Dubai International Emirates Terminal 3. Built for the exclusive use of Dubai's flagship carrier Emirates Airline, Terminal 3 boosted the airport's capacity to 60 million passengers, said Sheikh Ahmed.
In the half-century since its opening, Dubai International has welcomed over 402 million passengers at an average annual growth rate of 15.5%, and handled over 3.87 million aircraft movements at an average annual growth rate of 12.4%. The rapid expansion of air freight traffic saw total volumes moved between 1977 and August 2010, exceeding 17.9 million tonnes at an annual average growth rate of 14.3%.
"Passenger numbers will surpass 46 million in 2010 and approach 100 million by the end of the decade. We have indeed come a long way", added Sheikh Ahmed.
Work is also on track to build what will be the world's largest A380 dedicated facility. Part of the larger Terminal 3 complex, Concourse 3 will have a total of 20 contact gates, all of which will serve Emirates Airline's growing fleet of A380s.
Upon its completion at the end of 2012, C3 will increase Dubai International's capacity from the current 60 million to 75 million passengers per annum.