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Tbilisi airport loses roof, for a second time

Prepared by Ana Datiashvili
Monday, March 17
Part of the roof of the accident-prone Tbilisi International Airport was blown off in strong winds on March 15, the second time this has happened since it opened last year.

No one was injured and the incident did not affect departures, although an Istanbul–Tbilisi flight scheduled for the evening of March 15 was cancelled for technical reasons.

A press release from Turkish company Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV), which reconstructed and now operates the airport, said that only “decorative” sheeting had been affected, and there is “no damage on the main construction of the roof itself.”

President Mikheil Saakashvili hailed the airport as “one of the best in Europe” at its inauguration ceremony in February 2007, adding that it was built in line with “the most modern standards.”

Since then, the natural elements have put Saakashvili’s assertion to the test. Just days after the inauguration ceremony, roof leakage damaged the terminal building interior including the escalators, shortly before heavy wind liberated a portion of the roof for the first time.

TAV, which has 20-year management rights to the airport, constructed the new terminal building at a cost of USD 90.5 million. The same company built, and operates, Batumi International Airport.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the airport’s press department, Tea Tabatadze, said the total cost of the recent damages was not yet known.

“We are waiting for German experts who are due in Tbilisi to evaluate the losses, I don’t know anything else,” Tabatadze told the Messenger.

The debacle left many Georgians bemused.

“I was shocked when I landed and saw Tbilisi Airport again missing its roof, I think the responsible company and our government should pay more attention—it isn’t normal to have roof problems in an international airport,” said Maia Baghaturia, who flew into Tbilisi on March 15.

“It’s a funny situation,” said Gega, a Tbilisi student. “We want to believe we have an airport meeting international standards, but we end up with a convertible.”