Beijing-Daxing - Mega airport

Hub and ‘starfish’ par excellence: testing of Beijing Daxing under way

Reiner Hertl
4 minutes

The grand reveal: the concluding preparations for the inauguration of the Chinese capital’s new airport. Beijing Daxing was constructed on schedule and in record time – setting even more records. The modular construction of the airport, designed in the shape of a starfish, takes off with four runways and could well become “the world’s largest airport”.

But which airport is giving Beijing a serious run for its money?

As already reported, once completed, Istanbul’s new Airport will handle up to 200 million passengers a year – making it the biggest airport worldwide. This is a status that Atlanta, the current title-holder, has held for some time. Beijing Daxing is set to move in similarly elevated circles. The hub (constructed in 5 years) is ultimately designed to handle 100 million passengers with its 7 runways, 3 of which are still to be built. It has essentially been designed to relieve pressure on the capital’s existing hub, “Beijing Capital International Airport” (BCIA), which itself had broken through the 100 million passenger barrier in 2018. Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, with a total passenger capacity of around 90 million, currently ranks in 3rd place.

Greater passenger capacity or larger surface area

Regardless of the criteria on which the title is based – passenger numbers or surface area – Beijing Daxing, which has the IATA code PKX, is sure to be up there with the front-runners. Spoiler alert! BER, Berlin’s yet to be completed new airport, will not be so fast to take its place among the capital airports currently in operation (with a construction period currently approaching 13 years). And none of the new hubs has been designed as an “Endless Runway” or “Circular Airport”. More on this vision and concept: coming soon.

Colossal and totally on schedule

In terms of ranking and award criteria, the new “Beijing New International Airport”, its official name, will be classed as a 5-star airport. The first sods were cut for the new airport in December 2014 and its grand opening is planned for 30 September 2019. The main terminal measures an impressive 700,000 m², with 200,000 cubic metres of steel and 100,000 cubic metres of concrete used on the mega-airport. It was as if we were “erecting an 18-storey building every day,” explains the Site Manager, by way of comparison. Shifts were operated in the final countdown to the opening to enable the many aircraft movements planned each year to commence on schedule.

“First touchdown” on a Daxing runway at the start of 2019

A Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) calibration aircraft, which took off from Beijing Capital Airport, performed the first calibration flight and was the first aircraft to land at Beijing Daxing on 22 January 2019. This heralded in the final handover phase for the runways, instrument landing systems, beacons, distance measurement systems, navigation procedures and safety equipment. The Civil Aviation Administration of China has already confirmed that operations will begin as planned. Test flights then commenced in mid-May with landings by flagship aircraft models.

This clip shows some of the initial landings.

Mega-transshipment centre, hub and catalyst

The terminal also houses a transport hub with its own national railway station, which is designed to enable passengers to reach the airport by train from many Chinese cities within three hours and is also linked to a high-speed section. A new regional rail link will also connect the airport to Beijing’s Southern Railway Station and a new highway link to Beijing has also been built.

Architectural highlights by architectural icons

The magnificent third terminal of Beijing Capital Airport was designed by the acclaimed British architect Norman Foster. The almost perfectly shaped airport building in Daxing was designed by the famous late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Its aesthetic and symmetrical configuration will enable flexible subsequent expansion – and its starfish shape is also exceptionally functional. This is an airport marked by short walking distances in which passengers will never need to walk for longer than 8 minutes to their departure gate.

An entire swathe of land vanished to make way for the magnificent orange gleaming edifice

Over 16,000 people were rehoused and over 30 villages razed to the ground to make way for Daxing Airport. There was no option to oppose the process, although there was compensation. Constructed under different political and legal conditions than in the West, Beijing Daxing also has major political and symbolic importance.

Constructed for the future using state-of-the-art technology

State-of-the-art technology was employed for this massive project, which meant that the gigantic roof was erected within 80 days with the help of robots. The airport and its 80,000 m² ground transport centre is designed to handle four million tonnes of freight every year. It is estimated that the airport has cost a total of $14 billion to deal with a predicted passenger capacity of 100 million people per year. Several expansion stages will follow between now and 2025 to further boost this global high-performer.

Title image for editorial purposes: lazy dragon /

by Reiner Hertl

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