On July 12, aviation enthusiasts in Australia and beyond can celebrate the milestone through Facebook.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have grounded most of the world’s commercial aircraft these past few months, but it has not deterred Brisbane Airport from moving ahead with the opening of its much-anticipated new runway this weekend. The AU$1.1 billion (over US$761 million) project was finished at the end of April—several months ahead of schedule and AU$200 million under budget—following eight years of construction. By one measure, this milestone is the culmination of a vision that was first planned out in the 1970s: when Brisbane Airport was being built at its current site in the 1980s, space was reserved for a parallel runway intended to meet future demand.
Gert-Jan de Graaff, chef executive of Brisbane Airport Corporation, told reporters soon before the runway’s completion that its imminent opening would make Brisbane Airport “the only non-capacity constrained, curfew-free capital city airport in the country.” The new 3,300-meter-long runway will effectively double the flight capacity of Queensland’s main international gateway, allowing simultaneous takeoffs and landings thanks to the most efficient runway system in Australia. Together, the existing and new runways will be able to accommodate a maximum of 108 aircraft movements an hour—on par with Singapore Changi Airport.
Brisbane-based carrier Virgin Australia will fly the first departure from the new runway on a date of special significance. July 12 marks the 73rd anniversary of the very first flight between Brisbane and tropical north Queensland by Barrier Reef Airways, and Virgin Australia will celebrate the occasion by running a Boeing 737 aircraft from Brisbane to Cairns.
In a statement, de Graaf said, “COVID may have hampered some of our plans to mark this historic moment but, it certainly has not detracted from our pride and sense of accomplishment. The Virgin Australia staff are family here, and in these trying times for our industry it will be a particularly special moment to celebrate alongside them.”
Virgin Australia flight VA 781 will be departing this Sunday at 10:50 a.m. local time (that’s 8:55 a.m. Singapore/Hong Kong time, and 7:55 a.m. in Jakarta/Bangkok). Watch the livestream of the runway opening on Brisbane Airport’s Facebook page.