By Vanni Gibertini
New Runway Set to Open At Brisbane International Airport
In the middle of the worst crisis in commercial aviation’s history, Brisbane International Airport is ready to open a brand-new runway that has required 15 years between planning and construction, making what is the largest aviation project in Australia. In total, the project has cost over 1.3 billion Australian dollars ($900 million).
The new 01L/19R runway is scheduled to be opened on July 12 and will be parallel to the existing one. It will be 3.3 kilometers long and 60 meters wide to allow for the operation of the largest commercial aircraft, and it will be connected to the rest of the airport infrastructure by 12 kilometers of taxiways. The concrete strip is 3.3 meters thick and its distance from the longer 01R/19L runway will allow independent operations on the two runways.
The project was particularly challenging due to the soft nature of the land on which the runway was built.
“I do remember sitting in my office and our geotechnical engineers coming to see me and telling me that the ‘good news’ was that I had the worst soil that they’ve ever discovered,” Project Director Paul Coughlan said to Australian television ABC. “[The engineers said] the bad news [was that] it [was] going to be a bloody challenge in how we stabilize everything.”
“We brought 1.2 million cubic meters of rock in to build pavements,” Mr. Coughlan continued, “we probably poured about 250,000 cubic meters of concrete. That’s an enormous volume of concrete. It’s all built on sandy wetlands — just the sheer geology and geography around Brisbane Airport meant I couldn’t get a dredge in at the front. The nearest we could get a dredge was about 13 kilometers away.”
There are about 400 kilometers of ducting pipes under the tarmac to run cables for the 2,200 LED lights and optic fiber communication cables.
According to Brisbane Airport Corporation, the company that runs the airport, more than 90% of the project employees came from Southeast Queensland, therefore supporting the local economy, and this expansion is going to generate 7,800 new jobs and an additional 5 billion Australian dollars by 2035.
Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, Brisbane International Airport recorded more than 24 million passengers in 2019, a 2.3% increase over the previous year, cementing its role as the third most important airport in Australia behind Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and Melbourne International Airport.
“[The new runway] is a great investment from Brisbane’s point of view, and it’ll open up into the rest of the world even more so than it currently is,” said Dr. Michael Baird, an aviation marketing expert at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. “As the airlines, Airbus and Boeing specifically keep building more and better-quality long-haul aircraft, we’re going to see routes open from Brisbane to further cities in North America, South America, Canada. It’s going to be amazing for all sorts of business and leisure travelers.”