Sunshine Coast Airport will receive a $181 million loan from the federal government to help fund its new runway and terminal expansion.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester made the announcement of the concessional loan on Thursday.
The new 2,450m long and 45m wide runway to be built in a north-west/south-east orientation (Runway 13/31) at the council-owned airport is the centrepiece of a $347 million expansion project that also features two end taxiway loops, a larger apron at the terminal and a new air traffic control and aviation rescue fire fighting station.
The new runway would be capable of handling widebody aircraft such as the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787, while existing A320 and 737 services would operate without the constraints in place currently for the existing north/south 1,797m long by 30m wide runway.
“The characteristics of the existing runway significantly constrain the operations of modern jet passenger aircraft in that the runway length limits the destinations aircraft can reach by restricting the amount of fuel they can carry, or, as in the case of Air New Zealand services to Auckland, the number of passengers and freight that can be carried,” Sunshine Coast Airport’s expansion project documents released earlier in 2016 said.
Further, the current runway required airlines to operate “non-standard narrow runway” procedures, which included a reduced tolerance to cross winds, the documents said.
In October, the federal government officially designated Sunshine Coast Airport as an international airport.
Chester said in a statement having a runway capable of taking widebody flights would open Sunshine Coast Airport and the wider region to a broader range of international destinations, including growth markets in South-East Asia.
Figures from Sunshine Coast Airport showed it handled 964,362 passengers in 2015/16, up 13 per cent from the prior corresponding period and the highest total for a 12-month period in the airport’s history.
Currently, Air New Zealand operates a seasonal service to Auckland with Airbus A320s.