“Sometimes you can fuel on arrival,” the aviation manager said, “but if it's hot, you might want to postpone that to just prior to departure so that the aircraft isn't sinking into the tarmac at near gross weight during your visit. Servicing is very efficient, but it's our policy to arrive 3 hr. before departure. On leaving, they bus you to the aircraft, then you taxi from the east cargo ramp across the runway to an assigned parking spot to fuel up and receive catering, which is brought to the aircraft.” Once planted at the FBO in a prearranged parking place, however, the aircraft will not have to be moved until departure.
On the other hand, procedures at Doha International are straightforward, and the airport is modern and efficient. “We've never had a departure delay,” the aviation manager said. “And it has a 15,000-ft. runway!” he added, joyfully, no doubt thinking of takeoffs in fully grossed long-range business jets in 49C summer temperatures.
Mark Keiswetter, an American Hawker 900 captain for Rizon Jet who is based in Doha, reminded readers landing at OTBD or any other major airport in the region, to expect the new ICAO “line up and wait” radio phraseology when taking the runway. “If you are holding short of the runway and there is an aircraft on 2-mi. final,” he explained, “the controllers will say, 'Behind landing aircraft, line up and wait behind,' and then you are expected to repeat that back [before taxiing onto the runway and holding until the other aircraft has passed over, landed and cleared the runway].”
Qatar's booming energy economy and the rapid growth of the nation's flag carrier, Qatar Airways, have prompted the development of an entirely new airport on landfill at the edge of the Gulf only 5 km east of OTBD. Temporarily named “New Doha International Airport” and already assigned the ICAO code OTHH, it is claimed to be the first airport on the planet specifically designed to accommodate the double-decker Airbus A380 super jumbo. Construction commenced in 2009.
A feast of superlatives, New Doha features what are claimed to be the longest runways ever built at a civil airport, respectively, 16,000 and 18,000 ft. The first phase of New Doha is scheduled to open in 2013, with completion of the field two years later. It is unclear at this time whether the present airport will be retained for domestic and general aviation operations or closed. At full capacity, OTHH is expected to handle three times the traffic of OTBD, or 320,000 movements and 29 million passengers annually. “Some of these airports out here [in the Middle East] are so large you may have to plan 'taxi fuel,'” Keiswetter observed.
Qatar — the preferred pronunciation of which is “KatTAR,” not “Kotter” — is probably the most liberal country in the Middle East in terms of education. The government and Qatar Foundation have invested billions of dollars in developing indigenous schools and a university and have solicited literally dozens of schools, colleges and major universities from all over the world to establish extension campuses, most of which are ensconced in a district of Doha named Education City. This environment has spawned significant research facilities covering a multitude of disciplines.
The country is also highly cosmopolitan, due to the fact that two-thirds of its population consists of expatriates from other countries. Alcohol is not forbidden, and business aviation operators will not be required to lock up liquor on their airplanes or fear cabin inspections. Women are not required to be completely covered, and a head scarf tastefully worn is sufficient to meet local religious customs. However, this is still a Muslim country, and public drunkenness or inappropriate behavior will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including ejection from the country at best and several years in prison at worst. And if you value your freedom, don't even think about bringing recreational drugs into the country.
Doha is a welcoming city with lots of culture. “It has good hotels and food, and alcoholic beverages are available,” the aviation manager said. “Women are covered but not to the extent you would see in Saudi Arabia. We often go to the old town market to eat in outdoor restaurants. And the country is generally favorable to the U.S.” BCA