The Kansai International Airport reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Kansai International Airport

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Satellite photo of Kansai airport in Osaka BayEnlarge

Satellite photo of Kansai airport in Osaka Bay

Kansai International Airport (Jp. 関西国際空港 Kansai kokusai kūkō, IATA airport code KIX, ICAO airport code, RJBB) is an international airport located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, south of Osaka, Japan. It opened on September 4, 1994.

The airport is the primary international gateway for the Kansai region, which contains the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. However, domestic airlines have maintained the majority of their operations at the older but more conveniently located Osaka International Airport (Itami).

In the Kansai dialect, Kansai Airport is often called Kankū (関空).

Table of contents
1 History
2 Outlook
3 Terminal
4 Ground Transportation
5 External Links

History

In the 1960s, when the Kansai region was rapidly losing trade to Tokyo, planners proposed a new airport near Osaka and Kobe. Osaka International Airport, located in the densely-populated suburbs of Itami and Toyonaka, was surrounded by buildings: it could not be expanded, and many of its neighbors had filed complaints because of noise pollution problems.

After the protests surrounding New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport), which was built with confiscated land in a rural part of Chiba prefecture, planners decided to build the airport offshore. Initially, the airport was planned to be built near Kobe, but the city of Kobe refused the plan, so the airport was moved to a more southerly location on Osaka Bay. There, it could be open 24 hours per day, unlike its predecessor in the city. Local fishermen were the only group to protest, but they were silenced by hefty compensation packages.


A man-made island, 4 km long and 1 km wide, was proposed.  Engineers faced the risk of earthquakes (very high) and typhoons (with storm surges of up to 3 meters).

Construction started in 1987. The sea wall was finished in 1989 (made of rocks and 48,000 tetrahedral concrete blocks). Three mountains were excavated for 21 million cubic meters of landfill. 10,000 workers and 10 million work hours over 3 years, using 80 ships, were needed to complete the thirty-meter layer of earth over the sea floor and inside the sea wall. In 1990, a three-kilometer bridge was completed to connect the island to the mainland at Rinku-Town, at a cost of $1 billion.

Satellite closeup of the airport and its bridge. Construction of the second runway-island is underwayEnlarge

Satellite closeup of the airport and its bridge. Construction of the second runway-island is underway

By then, the island had sunk 8 meters (far more than predicted) and the project became the most expensive civil works project in modern history after 20 years of planning, 3 years of construction and several billion dollars of investment.

In 1991, the terminal construction commenced. To compensate for the sinking of the island, adjustable columns were designed to support the terminal building. These could be extended by inserting thick metal plates at their base.

The airport opened in 1994.

In 1995, Kansai Airport was struck by the Kobe earthquake, which was centered just 20 km away and killed 5,000 people on the mainland. The airport, however, emerged unscathed, mostly due to the use of sliding joints in its construction. Even the glass in the windows stayed intact. Later, in 1998, the airport survived a typhoon with wind speeds of up to 200 km/h.

Outlook

The total cost of Kansai Airport so far is $15 billion, which is 40% over budget (mostly due to the sinking problem). The airport is still deeply in debt, losing $560 million in interest every year. Airlines have been kept away by high landing fees (approximately $7500 for a Boeing 747), the second most expensive in the world after Narita's, even after deep discounts that attempted to lure airlines back to KIX.

The rate of sinking has slowed down markedly in recent years (just 17 cm in 2002). In 2003, believing that the sinking problem was almost over, the airport operators started the construction of a second runway, with an estimated project cost of ¥1.56 trillion (approx. $15 billion). However, traffic to the airport remains far below the 160,000 annual movements needed to exhaust the capacity of the existing runway, and the future opening of Kobe Airport may further dilute KIX's intra-Japan traffic. Phase II is scheduled to become operational in 2007, and will also involve the construction of a new terminal building and apron.

Terminal

4th floor ticketing hallEnlarge

4th floor ticketing hall

KIX has a single four-story terminal designed by Renzo Piano. It is the longest building in the world, at a total length of 1.7 km from end to end: a sophisticated people mover system moves passengers from one end of the pier to the other.

The terminal's roof is shaped like an airfoil. This shape is used to promote air circulation through the building: giant air conditioning ducts blow air upwards at one side of the terminal, circulate the air across the curvature of the ceiling, and collect the air through intakes at the other side. Mobiles are suspended in the ticketing hall to take advantage of the flowing air.

The ticketing hall overlooks the international departures concourse, and the two are separated by a glass partition. During Kansai's early days, visitors were known to throw objects over the partition to friends in the corridor below. The partition was eventually modified to halt this practice.

International Carriers

International arrivals go to immigration and baggage claim on the first floor. International departures are ticketed on the fourth floor and board from the third floor.

3rd floor immigration and departures concourseEnlarge

3rd floor immigration and departures concourse

Domestic Carriers

Arrivals, departures, ticketing, and baggage claim are all on the second floor.

Cargo Carriers

Ground Transportation

External Links