Turkey; located at an intersection area between Europe and Asia, has a very important and strategic position in the international air transport network. Turkey serves as a bridge between numerous countries located in different continents. Turkey ties Europe and the Middle East, Russia and North Africa, Balkans and the Caucasus. Turkey is also a tourism country which hosts near 20 million guests in the last year. Tourism sector in Turkey continues to grow as the country gets more democratic and develops good relations with the outside world. Turkey has the ability to host tourists for many different purposes such as congresses, summer holidays, winter holidays, religious visits (mosques, the house of the mother Mary in Ephesus etc.), historical attractiveness etc. Tourism plays an important role in Turkish economy and for all these reasons Turkish civil aviation system, which now serves in a very inefficient way, must be developed.
The objective of this research is to detect the problems of Turkish civil aviation system and offer some solutions to these problems by analyzing the current situation in detail and making a comparison with developed countries. It will be argued that Turkish civil aviation system could make a huge leap forward by using the country’s potential (dynamic and young population, cheap labor etc.) in an efficient way by rethinking of state’s approach to this sector in the age of globalization. In order to arrive at that point, first some problems of Turkish civil aviation sector will be analyzed in the “Problem definition” part. Later, I am going to present my alternative projects to overcome these difficulties. At the conclusion part, I am going to assess these alternatives according to their sustainability, environmental standards, practicality and economics and choose the best project among them.
Civil aviation means “aviation issues out of the military field and it has two main aspects; international air transportation which is the economic aspect and international air navigation which is the technical aspect” (Saygın, pg 1). These two aspects are in fact closely related with each other and together form the framework of international civil aviation sector (Saygın, pg 2). Civil aviation sector began to develop with the technological innovations of the 20th century. Since aviation technology was often developed for military purposes in the early 20th century, civil aviation sector was born in military milieu. Many countries including Turkey implemented isolationist policies until the end of Second World War. They tried to control their air borders and not to allow others to pass these borders. However, after Chicago Convention in 1944, international laws and principles for civil aviation were accepted by all countries (Saygın, pg 3). Before the Chicago Convention, Turkey “had been in a state of apathy or isolationism towards the functioning of the international aviation” but after the Convention Turkey chose “active involvement in international civil aviation system” (Saygın, pg 4).
Turkey now is an important part of international civil aviation system but the system could be much more developed. Although Turkey has many reasons and motives to develop its civil aviation system, the liberalization of the Turkish civil aviation sector starting from 1985 after implementation of Law no: 2029 on permission to conduct of business operations by the private sector by getting rid of the state’s monopolist approach, did not bring good luck to private firms. Approximately 23 civil aviation firms were bankrupt or closed in the two decades. Moreover, the sector was not able to catch a steady growth rate because of some problems. First of all, the state subsidies, which were mostly, allocated to Turkish Airlines (THY), created unfair competition in the market that leads to disadvantageous situation for private firms. Secondly, Turkey has many deficiencies concerning technology and human resources in the civil aviation sector. Although Turkey has become a member of European Joint Aviation Authority, she was not able to solve its problems. Thirdly, Turkey has only 34 usable airports which could be considered as very few for a country of 70 million who hosts 20 million tourists every year. Airport transportation was not supported and advised enough by the state to its citizens although highway transportation causes the death of thousands of people in Turkey every year. Although civil aviation system is a safer way of transportation, the state does not have any feasible and competitive long term plan for the national civil aviation against the foreign competitors and to improve the sector. Lastly, the sector has to be reorganized and supported by the state in order to make a notable leap. The problems of civil aviation sector in Turkey became visible again few days ago when a plane belonging to the firm Atlas Jet was crushed down near Isparta and all 57 passengers of the flight were dead.
PROJECT 1: STATE-LED DEVELOPMENT MODEL
Civil aviation sector was developed in all countries by taking direct help from the military and the state. In Turkey too, civil aviation sector could not be thought without the state and the military’s support and guidance. That is why; a new development for the sector could be made better with the state initiative. The failure of private firms in Turkey until today show one thing clearly; the important is not to create many small private firms that work in an insecure and inefficient way like Atlas-Jet, but rather to create state supported highly qualified and big firms that will compete with European and American firms. The model of Turkish Airlines (Türk Hava Yolları-THY) can be a good example to create another firms and develop the sector in the country. In order to achieve this, certain leaps should be realized. First of all, Turkey has only 34 usable airports (17 of them are built for civil purposes and have European standards of quality), which is a very small number for a country having a population of 70 million and that wants to make a leap in the civil aviation sector. That is why; Turkey should build new airports especially in rapidly developing cities like Bursa, Eskişehir, Samsun, Sivas, Mersin and Şanlıurfa. Moreover, in metropolis cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir single airport system works inefficiently since the country gets more globalized and open to outside world. Although there is a small second airport in Istanbul in the Anatolian side (Sabiha Gökçen airport), this airport could be developed in order to regulate Istanbul’s air traffic. In Izmir and Ankara, two airports closer to city-centers could be established since these cities similar to Istanbul grow day by day and their population increase due to rural-to-urban migration. In order to realize this leap forward, Turkish Central Bank should give very convenient credits to some cities’ municipalities where airports would be built. The payment should be on the long run and with very low interest rate. Moreover, Turkish state should incite air transportation and should reduce costs for developing both Turkey’s civil aviation and tourism sectors. With a good plan produced and secured by state agencies and experts could change Turkey’s whole history concerning civil aviation sector. Map-1 shows the current usable airports in Turkey and possible places for new airports.
PROJECT 2: PRIVATE SECTOR BASED DEVELOPMENT MODEL
Second project is a development model that is based on private sector. In the 21st century, state-based economies are very low and generally market economics is accepted as the best system that increases the quality of the service and products. So, in order not to stay behind the international competition, Turkey could choose the private sector based development model and be very successful in the near future. The first thing to do is of course to increase the regulation of private firms in order to prevent accidents. A single accident could cause the closure of a firm and a huge decrease of prestige in the sector that is why safety policies and regulations should be increased enormously. If Turkish firms have deficiencies in technological capacity, these deficiencies should be covered immediately and firms having lack of latest technology should be warned. We see that the accident of Atlas-Jet caused huge reactions in the country and civil aviation sector is in a difficult position. Another accident like this would ruin the sector so; precautions should be taken for preventing accidents. There is a clear problem of controlling in civil aviation sector in Turkey. While there are 900 people who are responsible for control in a small country like Southern Cyprus, in Turkey there are only 125 experts. Secondly, investment in the civil aviation sector should be facilitated and Turkish businessmen should be encouraged for establishing civil aviation firms. The entrance of big business groups like Koç and Sabancı to the sector will certainly increase the prestige and the safety of the sector. That is why big business groups should be incited and convinced that the sector will soon grow rapidly and it’s better for them to their place earlier than other groups. In addition, Turkey should establish its own plane industry similar to the early years of the Republic. The example that is to be taken is Nuri Demirağ, a Turkish entrepreneur who established his own plane factory with the help of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and produced Turkish planes that were highly developed for this period. If Turkey begins to produce its own planes, civil aviation system could be developed more rapidly and the size of the sector will be expanded. Today, most of the newly established private firms do not have planes but rather they hire planes from foreign firms or from Turkish Airlines. If these firms will stay in the market, they will probably buy planes and it would be better for Turkish firms to use Turkish planes. Thirdly, Turkey has few pilot schools which force Turkish private firms to hire pilots from foreign firms. Turkish firms should open up pilot schools in addition civil aviation firms and raise new Turkish pilots to develop Turkish civil aviation sector in a complete way. Developing the sector would be realized when the whole component of the sector that are firms, planes and pilots will be produced by Turkey itself in a high quality manner.
After analyzing the development models I am going to compare and contrast these projects according to their weaknesses and strengths concerning sustainability, environmental standards, practicality and economics.
Sustainability: When we analyze two projects, we see that both of them are sustainable if enough money were allocated. However, state-led development model seems more secure since the state in a sense assures a guarantee for the project. Private-sector based development could become a failure for instance if an economic crisis takes place or the sector is shaken because of an accident. That is why, state-led development is model seems better concerning the sustainability.
Environmental Standards: Both projects seem to have no problem concerning environmental standards since the construction of new airports and plane factories would be in accordance with the state’s environmental regulations.
Practicality: It would be unfair to label both projects as practical since both of them require a serious investment. However, private sector based development can be thought as more practical since the state will help and orientate people who have money and who want to make investment. However, for the state-led development model the state has to spend a portion in its budget for founding new state based firms and help municipalities for new airports. In this sense, the first project seems less practical.
Economics: Concerning economics, state-led development model is more difficult since the state will spend money to this from the budget. However, the second project requires only state’s support and guidance. That is why concerning economy; the second project seems more plausible to be implemented.
Finally, as far as I am concerned Turkish civil aviation sector could be developed better and more easily with the second project by supporting private firms and detecting their deficiencies to prepare them to compete with international firms. In addition, raising new pilots and producing Turkish planes would certainly increase the popularity and the profit of the sector.
- Korul, Vildan & Küçükönal, Hatice, “Türk Sivil Havacılık Sisteminin Yapısal Analizi”, http://eab.ege.edu.tr/pdf/3/C1-S1-2-M4.pdf
- Saygın, Barış, “Turkey’s Policy Towards International Civil Aviation”, MA Thesis submitted to Bilkent University International Relations department
- Turizmdebusabah.com, “Türk Sivil havacılık sektörü destek bekliyor”, http://www.turizmdebusabah.com/haber_detay~haberNo~6539~haber~t%C3%BCrk_sivil_havac%C4%B1l%C4%B1k_sekt%C3%B6r%C3%BC_destek_bekliyor.htm
- Radikal Online, “THY’de hedef dünya ligi”, http://www.radikal.com.tr/haber.php?haberno=173071
- Airporthaber.com, “Yabancı pilot düşkünlüğü”, http://www.airporthaber.com/hb/detay.php?id=4758
- T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, “İstatistikler”, http://www.kultur.gov.tr/TR/BelgeGoster.aspx?F6E10F8892433CFF2B81939FD5B60AFAFFDE13C621852F44
- Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Aviation_Authorities
- Joint Aviation Authorities web site, http://www.jaat.eu/
- Nuri Demirağ, http://www.nuridemirag.com/
 Korul & Küçükönal, pg 24
 T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, “İstatistikler”
 Korul & Küçükönal, pg 34
 T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, “İstatistikler”