China’s US$60 billion new petal-shaped airport versus Ghana’s $400 million airport expansion project

BY: Edmund Smith-Asante
A glimpse of the airport when completed
A glimpse of the airport when completed

A 400 billion RMB (US$60.68 billion) new international airport covering an area of 45 kilometres squared (km2) is currently under construction in China and scheduled to be fully completed by July 2019.

During a visit to the site on February 23, 2017, President Xi Jinping said the new airport would become the new powerhouse for the development of China.

The financing of the multi-billion dollar project which includes an 80 billion RMB (US$12.14 billion) terminal is by the Chinese government, the Commission for the Development of China Fund, the Bureau of Civil Aviation and through private sector development.

The Daxing Airport, which is expected to take some of the aviation and passenger load off the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA), will be the largest comprehensive transportation hub in China according to its long-term plan, with an annual passenger flow throughput exceeding 100 million.

Shaped liked flower petals and incorporating Chinese architecture elements, the new airport’s main terminal, which is designed to withstand earthquakes, has five short concourses (piers) and a longer one, which will house 79 boarding gates, jutting out into the airside area and forming a stable and symmetry structure.

This is to allow more parking of aircraft simultaneously, shortening of the longest walking distance from the centre of the terminal to the farthest boarding bridge to 600 meters and walking time to less than eight minutes, thus bringing on an efficiency higher than any other similar scale airport in the world.

The project was begun in December 2014 and is located between Yufa Town and Lixian Tang of Beijing Daxing District and Guangyang District of Langfang in the Hebei Province 46km from the Tian’anmen Square, 67km from the BCIA and 85km from the Tianjin Airport, all close to the Chinese capital.

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Briefing three full bus loads of local and international journalists who visited the site of the construction on Monday, October 16, 2017, the spokesperson for the contractors (Beijing Construction Engineering Group, Beijing Urban Construction Investment and Development Co. Ltd and China Construction 8th Engineering Division Co. Ltd), Mr Zhu Wenxin, said the work was being carried out on schedule and it was certain the deadline for completion would be met.

Installation of glass curtains had begun when the journalists arrived at the construction site

Extent of work

He said by the end of September 2017, over 90 per cent of the earthwork on the airfield as well as dynamic compaction and impact rolling had been completed, while concreting work of the six runways and taxiways as well as pipelines and housing projects had comprehensively progressed.

Integrated transportation

To cater for the massive volumes of passengers, the airport would have five vertical and two horizontal integrated transportation networks comprising a highway with four expressways from the city centre, 200 metres wide inter-city railway and city railway systems and a high-speed railway with a design speed of 250 km/hour running under the terminal.

A railway station would be set up on the second underground floor of the terminal from where passengers can directly enter the airport through massive volume elevators or automatic escalators.

Airport terminal

The terminal covering a total area of 700,000m2 has two levels of departure floors to handle a 72 million passenger throughput while part of the aircraft stands will be used with a mixture of international and domestic flights and a centralised transfer procedure area set up to facilitate easy transfer of passengers.

The waiting area will consist of both indoor and outdoor spaces with five outdoor gardens which will be named “Silk Garden”, “Tea Garden”, “Porcelain Garden”, “Field Garden” and “China Garden at the front end of the piers to embody the connotation of the Silk Road.

Describing the terminal as the largest shock-absorbing building in China, the spokesman said, “To ensure safety from earthquakes, rubber isolation bearings have been installed to build a combined anti-earthquake system and effectively enhance the anti-earthquake performance, safety and reliability of the terminal building.”

Runway structure 

There will also be six runways for the new omni-directional airport structure, with four going vertical and two going horizontal (to avoid the traffic from BCIA), which will be the first in China.

According to Mr Zhu, the design, which offers multiple feasible solutions for air traffic control “can thus utilise the limited space above Beijing to the utmost, reduce the taxing time of aircraft and noise and improve the efficiency of integrated air-ground operation.”

The project is also described as an example of a green airport and a smart effort that is realising ecological construction with its implementation of 54 green construction indexes in resource saving, environmental friendliness, high operation efficiency and humanistic service.

It is expected to ferry a cargo and mail throughput of four million tonnes annually when fully operational but by a near-term target year of 2025 have a 72 million passenger throughput, two million cargos and mail throughput and 620,000 aircraft movements using four runways.

BCIA currently has 880,000 aircraft movements annually and a passenger throughput of 90 million.

An artistic impression of the Kotoka International Airport expansion

Kotoka expansion

Ghana, for now, may not have even a fraction of China’s US$ 60 billion for another international airport, especially when it does not seem that the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) is bursting at its seems except for the weekends when there is a lot of traffic.

With the ongoing expansion work at the KIA involving the construction of a third terminal which started on March 26, 2017, however, it will not be long when there will no longer be space for further expansion. We must be thinking of building a second and larger international airport after the US$400 million works on Kotoka (and other airports) which has served the country very well.

According to the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) the new terminal, which is designed for international traffic and expected to be completed in May this year, will ease the pressure on the existing two terminals and handle up to five million passengers a year, with an expansion potential of up to 6.5 million passengers.

The terminal can also be accessed from a new main road to be constructed as part of the project, while the main entrance will be located in front of the central check-in hall to make it easy to enter the terminal.

Terminal three, which is a design and build concept being undertaken by Turkish construction company, Mapa Construction MNG Holding (Mapa İnşaat ve Ticaret), will comprise five levels spread across an area of 45,000m² and will feature six contact stands for Code E aircraft (52m (170.60ft) wing span) and two additional remote stands.

The new terminal will have the capacity to process 1,250 passengers at peak hour, a large retail and commercial area, three business lounges, six fixed links and seven air bridges expandable to eight, and parking space with the capacity to handle more than 700 cars.

According to the GACL, the check-in hall is being designed with architecture that incorporates expressive forms reflecting Ghanaian culture and values.

The departure level of the terminal will feature 56 check-in desks and 30 passport control counters, of which four will be e-gate positions, and eight security lanes. The arrival level will house 24 immigration counters, four e-gate positions expandable to eight, and four reclaim devices.

A fully automated baggage handling system designed in accordance with the latest European Civil Aviation Conference Hold Baggage Screening (ECAC HBS) requirements will also be provided to handle 3,500 bags an hour.