Brisbane Airport’s new $1 billion runway finally opened on Saturday with a warbird flypast and the departure of a Virgin Australia 737-8FE to Cairns.
Chief Executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said, “This is more than just a formality and a slab of very expensive asphalt. When I look at that 3.3 kilometre stretch of runway, I see hope.”
In an unprecedented move for an Australian capital city airport, the airspace was closed to allow an aerobatics display by ‘Fighter Pilot Adventure Flights’, a Brisbane-based private aircraft collection to mark the occasion.
The aircraft, which flew at up to 500km per hour, included an L39 Albatros, Mark 16 Spitfire (Mk XVI), P51D Mustang and a CAC Wirraway.
The day also included the departure of the first commercial flight as VH-YIV departed to Cairns to celebrate the capital’s connection to the regions.
Virgin Australia flight VA781 was piloted by Captain John Ridd and First Officer Troy Parker.
Ridd is one of the initial group of pilots to start with Virgin Blue in 2000, and has flown the B737 exclusively, while first officer Parker flies B737, B777 and Embraer 170/190.
The moves followed the official ribbon cutting, attended by VIPs, 150 airport staff and 10 local planespotters who won a place in a draw.
Mitch Palm, the great-nephew of pioneering aviator Bert Hinkler, also joined the celebrations.
Finally, a copy of Saturday’s The Sunday Mail was added to a special time capsule to mark the day, which also included items donated by schools, politicians, and the public.
The capsule will be stored at the Kingsford-Smith Memorial until it is opened in 2070.
“While current world challenges mean less demand right now, the timing of this opening is fortuitous,” said de Graaff.
“Had we been any later, the project may have been delayed significantly creating more burden on the economy and dampening our spirits further. Instead Brisbane is an ideal position to take advantage of all opportunities on the road to recovery from COVID.
“And best of all, we are providing hope and inspiration. This runway is a beacon of hope for a very bright future. Our immediate future. The future of generations to come.”
Construction workers quietly finished building the $1 billion runway at the end of April.
The project to build it cost more than a $1 billion, took eight years of construction and demanded 3.3 million man-hours from 3,700 Australians.
It’s hoped it 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.
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.