ARTICLE: TAHA AKYOL, Journalist
Air Travel Means Development
As children we had no sense of what it meant to fly. We merely saw ‘flying machines’ in the sky and wondered about them, but assumed only military men flew in them. In the 1970s, when Turkey was still a closed, traditional society, an airplane for almost everybody was a mode of transportation seen only in war films and, rarely, in feature films.
Not only did I never lay eyes on a tourist in Yozgat, the central Anatolian town where I spent my childhood, the first time I boarded a plane was in 1976 after I moved to Ankara.
I will never forget it. Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel had organized a tour to the new dam at Keban, and I was among the journalists he took on board with him. I believe I was the youngest guest on the plane and the only one making his first flight.
I was scared but excited. I even thought the plane was going to crash when we experienced a bit of turbulence. I hunkered down in my seat and thought about my wife and my little son.
When the plane landed I heaved a big sigh of relief. I felt as if I had woken up from a nightmare. Today, both for me and for incomparably more Turks than in the 1970s, boarding a plane and experiencing the most violent forms of turbulence is a run-of-the-mill life experience, as ordinary as walking down the street.
In the 1970s Turkey didn’t even have a proper land transport network as yet. Yet today Turkey possesses the most powerful and advanced air transport system in its region. Not only is Turkish Airlines one of the world’s most respected and reliable airlines, private airlines are also developing rapidly in our country and the competition is bringing lower prices as well as quality.
The number of Turkish passengers traveling on domestic and international routes today has already exceeded ten million a year.
Let me cite an example from Anatolia. The number of passengers arriving at and departing from Diyarbakır Airport was around thirty thousand a year in 1980. Today is it over 200,000. All of our major cities have airports today. The motherland that we have ‘crisscrossed with a network of iron rails’ is not only connected with the entire region and its cities by land and air, it is also opening up to the world. Indeed, airports like Antalya and Dalaman, which need to be enlarged every four or five years, contribute to tourism, accounting for over ten billion dollars of our tourism revenues alone.
The development of air travel in a country is one of the best indicators of that country’s level of civilization and economic development. Just look at the Skylife magazine you hold in our hand. With its aesthetically pleasing appearance and rich cultural contents, it is a reflection of a Turkey that is developing, growing and competing with the world, and reflecting its contribution to our national economy with every ad it receives.