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Work quietly finishes on Brisbane Airport’s $1bn runway

written by Adam Thorn | May 1, 2020

Brisbane Airport runway
Brisbane Airport Corporation chief Gert-Jan de Graaff, centre, leads the subdued celebrations after an eight-year construction project (Brisbane Airport)

It cost more than a $1 billion, took eight years of construction and demanded 3.3 million man hours from 3,700 Australians – but yesterday Brisbane Airport’s new runway was completed under the eerie quiet of a coronavirus lockdown.

The project will slowly double the hub’s passenger numbers from 23.4 million to more than 50 million by 2040, increasing daily flights to 110 aircraft movements an hour.

BAC chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said, “The last few months have been difficult for everyone in the aviation and travel industries, as well as the whole community, but we have never lost sight of the fact that this project has been built for the long term. It will serve us well for many decades to come.”

Already, its new capacity is being touted by the state government as an incentive for a reborn Virgin Australia to remain in Brisbane.

Last week, de Graaff told reporters that his city had room to grow “in spades” compared with rivals Melbourne and Sydney.


“With a new runway opening in July, Brisbane Airport will be the only non-capacity constrained, curfew free capital city airport in the country,” he said.

The project was conceived 15 years ago and its construction was a joint venture between BMD Constructions and CPB Contractors.

At its peak, 650 people were on-site in mid-2019 and 324 subcontractors were hired, with around 90 per cent based in south-east Queensland. In total, the state reclaimed 11 million cubic metres of sand from Moreton Bay as part of the works.

“In many respects, this runway is symbolic of the very firm belief we have that aircraft will, in the not too distant future, return to the skies and our terminals will once again be full of happy people looking forward to visiting their families, their holidays or to travel to do business,” said de Graaff.

Brisbane Airport
Brisbane’s new runway as seen from above (Brisbane Airport)

“As we reach this historic milestone, I must commend the entire New Runway team for putting their heart and souls into this project over the last 15 years. Every step of the way the BAC team has been supported by many partners, suppliers and contractors who have contributed to this project. This truly is a project built by the community for the community.

“This new runway is so much more than asphalt; it is an enabler for recovery and growth across all facets of business, with an estimated 7,800 new jobs created by 2035 and an additional $5 billion in annual economic benefit to the region.”

Project director Graeme Fenemore said, “I am extremely proud to be handing over Brisbane’s new runway ahead of program, on budget and with an exemplary safety record of zero lost-time injuries.”

In early April, Brisbane Airport brought forward the decommissioning of a cross runway to create additional parking space for grounded aircraft.

The move was among a number of measures undertaken to help airlines store unused planes, including creating 10 dedicated parking zones, accommodating 100 aircraft free of charge and facilitating bays being switched back on when needed.

The airport has pledged it will “keep the lights on and the front door to Queensland open” despite operating a heavily reduced service.

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Comments (22)

  • Absolutely awesome to see something wonderful in these silent times

  • CM


    They’re celebrating? 8 years and a BILLION dollars? Did they dig it by hand? The Japanese can rebuild a freeway in 2 weeks. We seriously need to get our act together in this country!

    • Adrian P


      Three years of the build was waiting for the sand base of the runway to compact which then gets levelled.
      Runways are not cheap especially if they need a parallel taxiway, ILS and aerodrome ground lighting with backup generator.
      Which makes me wonder why Melbourne Airport plans four runways to have the same number of movements as Brisbane.
      Brisbane has dumped its crosswind runway and Melbourne plan is to have two crosswind runways.

    • Edward


      All of BNE airport is built on reclaimed land.
      There’re many stages which have to happen to do this.
      One is, the land must ‘settle’, this is NOT done ‘overnight’; it takes years’. Each stage is a progressive slow engineering process.

      You speak of ‘rebuilt freeway’. This isn’t for cars! It’s for hundreds’ of tonnes of aircraft taking-off, & landing, at the one time. It has literally, & littoraly, been built from the ground up.

      Go read some Engineering books before you sprout your nonsense again!

    • Dee Thom


      Unlike a freeway, the sand fill from Moreton Bay required five years to settle prior to actual construction commencing, due to the excessive weight/load of aircraft taking off and landing.

    • Mark


      CM, you clearly have no clue on the scope or size of this project. And the Japanese cannot build a freeway in 2 weeks.

  • Gregory Jarosch


    How long and wide is the new runway at Brisbane?

    • Mark


      65m I believe.

  • TD


    Well done. A great example and vision to keep the lights on for not only Queensland but all the travelling public including international visitors.

  • Watto


    As far as I am aware Perth Airport doesn’t have a curfew (in fact as I live under under the flight path for departures west can confirm pre covid 19 hearing departures well after midnight). Pretty sure no cap on aircraft movements as well.

  • Bob Mackinnon


    What a Fantastic addition to Brisbane, especially as it is a 24 hours airport.

  • Marcus


    Yes Watto. No curfews for Perth.

  • Doug Green


    Does …”increasing daily flights to 110 aircraft movements an hour…” even make sense? If thats just the daily flights, what about the NON-daily flights? 110 movements an hour is a movement every 1.09 minutes. I look forward to seeing that, even for brief rush hour spurts.

    • David Wiman


      During the initial building of the pipes to take the sand being pumped from Moreton bay The cross strip runway14/32 was closed for many months. This was during the mining boom, Brisbane was the busiest single runway airport in the world during this period. Holding during peak times for inbound aircraft was sometimes in excess of an hour, and there was a departure or arrival every 90seconds. Throw into that taxiway Bravo Didnt exist into the international terminal back then so it was very demanding controlling.

      • Adrian P


        Every 90 seconds a movement is only 40 movements an hour.
        London Gatwick is good for a max of 55 movements an hour, a movement every 65 seconds.

      • Mark


        You are spot on David. Brisbane is currently the second busiest one main runway airport in the world after London Gatwick. In morning and to a lesser degree evening peak, it is very usual to wait a minimum of 15-30 minutes for a take off slot between 8- 11am when it settles down. My own personal record is 45 minutes of circling awaiting a landing slot for landing and about 25 for a takeoff slot.

        • victor kilo


          Hah Mark, lol @ Airservices GDP if they kept you holding for 45 minutes.

  • Keith Parker


    Glad I played a small part in it’s construction with B.M.D.

  • Geoff


    3300m long by 60m width Gregory

  • Rod Pickin


    Yes an outstanding event, I wonder if a similar opening event will take place with FA18’s as was with its sister, – 01/19R. It happened on 30th Nov 1987; – The first commercial departure, at 12.15k VH EBJ B747-238B optg as QF27 BNE HKG with 410 pax and at 331,010 Kgs literally blasted sand behind it as she began the journey North.
    Very interesting to note that on the same day at almost the same time despite severe runway length optg limitations negating regular BNE LAX ops a QF B747SP, full, diverted to BNE ex SYD for fuel. – FTL was the optg criteria this day and the a/c took off on the old BNE R/W 04 at max weight direct for LAX. WOW!
    My thanks to Ron Cuskelly for the QF27 data

  • Ken


    I’ll ask the obvious question – who will be first to land on it ? I think there’s an old story when Tulla opened in July 1970 that an air Alitalia DC8 aborted its Essendon landing and snuck over to Tulla to be he first ??? Can’t find anything on Google. Domestic operations didn’t transfer from Essendon until 1971

    • Adrian P


      The National Library of Australia has the answer in a copy of the Canberra Times Thur 2 July 1970 Page 11.
      A special QANTAS 707 with staff on board from Mascot was first to land.
      Next was Alitalia DC8 with fare paying passengers.


  • Andrew of 3040


    As far as I’m aware, no DC8 ever landed at Essendon, and the only 707 to do so was US Air Force One in 1966, for LBJ and Lady Bird’s visit. Essendon’s main strip (08-26) was and is only just over 1,900m long.

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