As one of the most important airports in Japan, Kansai Airport is located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay, about 40 km from Osaka city.
Kansai Airport has been in operation since 1994 to reduce passengers for the overcrowded Osaka Airport that cannot be expanded due to its location in the densely populated area of Toyonaka City. Pictured is the first man-made island, with the airport’s T1 terminal. Photo: Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Kansai Airport has been in operation since 1994 to reduce passengers for Osaka Airport, which is overloaded and cannot be expanded, due to its location in a densely populated area. Pictured is the first artificial island, with the airport’s T1 terminal before 2007. Photo: Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
The idea of a new airport on an artificial island 4,000 meters long and 1,200 meters wide was born in the 1980s. The project officially started in 1987. The location to build the island is about 5 km from the shore. But the problem that makes the engineers headache is not the above parameters, but the unstable sedimentary clay layer on the seabed and lightweight materials but still strong enough to withstand storms or earthquakes in the area. this area.
The engineering team started the project by digging 1.2 million sand wells into the sediment layer, to stabilize the seabed to be strong enough to support the artificial island. Next, an 11-kilometer-long concrete wall was completed within three years, enclosing the airport grounds like a wall of a swimming pool, preventing seawater from entering. 48,000 concrete blocks – each weighing 200 tons, are loaded onto the foundation. 180 million cubic meters of soil taken from three mountains, filled in the void inside the wall as high as 30 meters.
Not only have to build an island, the team of engineers also create a more impressive airport. Italian architect Renzo Piano submits a blueprint that will please both construction workers and prospective passengers. He designed the airport terminal 1.6 km long, wing shaped aircraft, with the main materials are steel and tempered glass. To minimize the impact on the environment and save on heating or cooling costs, a passive air conditioning system is designed specifically for the station. The air conditioning system passes through the 300,000 square meter station, maintaining a comfortable temperature in the range of 20 – 26 degrees Celsius.
Kansai Airport Terminal 1 is the longest in the world. Photo: VINCI.
The engineers’ next challenge is connecting the airport to the mainland. The optimal solution is to build a bridge over the sea, not too high to prevent aircraft from departing or landing, and not too low to build two floors. The upper floor is a 6-lane road for cars, while the lower floor is just enough for two train tracks. This work is named Sky Gate Bridge R.
Finally, with one million workers working for a total of 10 million hours, using 200 million tons of raw materials, Kansai airport opened after six years of construction.
Since 1994, it has been one of Japan’s busiest airports, serving more than 300,000 passengers a week, and welcoming 55,000 aircraft a year. It has become one of the greatest structures of the 20th century, compared with super structures such as the Hoover Dam (USA) or the Panama Canal. About 5 km from the shore, Kansai Airport is like a giant rectangle floating in the middle of Osaka Bay.
“When I got closer to an airport, I initially thought it was like landing an aircraft carrier or something like that. But it was not,” said one pilot. Jim Skusa, captain of JALways, said: “Nighttime visibility is very limited, because there is not much light around the airport. So they call it Black Hole Airport”. “The sea surface looks so close you will feel like you are diving there, quite scary,” said one passenger.
The bridge connecting Kansai airport to the mainland set the record for the longest two-story bridge in the world (3,750 m). Photo: Jtrip.
However, as the Kansai airport’s reputation resounded around the world, rumors also spread that it was sinking with the island. In 1999, on the occasion of the airport’s 5th birthday, it was estimated that the island had sunk about 8 meters, making many doubts about its durability, although the exploitation period lasted up to 40 years. After that, the engineering team believes they have found a solution, using new technology to reduce the sinking speed of the airport and continuously improve facilities.
In 2007, a second artificial island came into operation to reduce the impact of aircraft on runway and terminal 1. This artificial island has a 4,000 m long runway and terminal 2. the airport costs about $ 20 billion, including land reclamation fees, two runways, two terminals and facilities.
The landing at Kansai airport. Video: Planes Weekly.
In addition to its admirable achievements in architecture and engineering, Kansai Airport also has a positive impact on the environment. This place is one of the largest solar farms in Asia. In addition, the airport also uses hydrogen-powered vehicles, apply advanced technologies to treat wastewater.
It has survived numerous natural disasters, such as the 1995 Kobe earthquake that had an epicenter 20 km away or recovers rapidly from severe flooding caused by Typhoon Jebi in 2018. Experience learned from the construction process. This project has been applied by Japan to build 3 other airports on the artificial island: New Kitakyushu Airport, Kobe Airport, and Chūbu Centrair International Airport.
Currently, passengers arriving at Kansai airport can rent buses for sightseeing tours, priced at 12,300 – 15,400 yen (more than 2.6 – 3.3 million dong) per car for a group, tickets from 500 yen (nearly 110,000 dong). each person.
Depending on the weather, visitors can approach the planes parked on the runway, watch the aircraft take off and land. Photo: Kansai Airport.
The 60-minute schedule will bring visitors into a strict security check area that usually prohibits outsiders from entering, observing food preparation and many other operations of the airport. Besides, there is a tour to explore in detail the process of preparing food on the plane lasting 150 minutes, including lunch time. Tour starts from 11am and 11:30 on Wednesdays. In addition, visitors can choose the airport museum tour program lasting 30-60 minutes.