The new Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is due to replace the overloaded and unexpandable Bangkok International Airport (Don Muang), was scheduled to open in June 2006. However, this date was delayed until 28 September 2006 for testing and validation by ICAO (cracked runways) and also because of repairs required to the roof fabric.
On 15 September 2006 limited operations were started at the airport; Jetstar Asia landed several planes during the morning, becoming the first to operate passenger flights out of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
After repeatedly revising the completion date, officials were sure that the airport would open before the start of the main tourist season in October. All domestic and international carriers flying to Bangkok agreed to move their flights to Suvarnabhumi by 28 September 2006 (airport started operations officially at 3am). In exchange for agreeing to the government’s proposed opening date, Airports of Thailand (AoT) postponed a 15% increase in landing fees for six months.
HISTORY OF THE DELAYED OPENING
The airport was due to open in late 2005, but a series of budget over-runs, construction flaws, political interference and allegations of corruption have caused problems for the project. Finally, after much speculation, the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, announced that the airport would be open by September 2006 at the latest. Symbolic first test flights involving two Thai Airways aircraft were held on 29 September 2005, which was a previously announced deadline for opening.
At one point, in September 2004, Thaksin Shinawatra and several of his cabinet ministers even spent the night in tents at the construction site in a move aimed at embarrassing construction crews into speeding up their work.
The New Bangkok International Airport (NBIA) company was formed in 1996 but due to political and economic chaos, it took six years for construction to start. In 2005, the construction supervision and management were transferred to the Airports of Thailand PLC, while the NBIA company was dissolved.
SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT SITE
The new airport is located on a boggy, 3,100ha site in the Samut Prakarn province of Thailand at Nong Ngu Hao (translated as cobra swamp), 30km east of Bangkok.
Construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport began in January 2002. The name Suvarnabhumi (pronounced su-wan-na-poom) was chosen by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and means ‘the golden land’, specifically referring to continental Indochina.
OLD AIRPORT AND THE FUTURE
The older overloaded airport, Don Muang, will be relegated to domestic-only status when the new airport opens. Don Muang is currently the world’s 22nd busiest airport and the busiest in Southeast Asia, but it has already reached its full capacity at over 37 million passengers a year.
Suvarnabhumi will be able to cope with 30 million passengers a year when it first opens, a figure which will be increased to 45 million within a short space of time. Following further expansion phases, including two additional runways, it will cater to over 100 million passengers a year.
The airport has five main access routes, among these the most convenient route is via the Bangkok-Chon Buri Motorway (Highway No. 7). In addition to a new express rail link, 11 city bus routes operated by Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) will serve the airport.
NEW AIRPORT FACILITIES AND CAPACITY
Suvarnabhumi Airport will operate as many as 76 flights an hour on two simultaneous runways; it will have 51 aircraft stands and 69 remote parking bays for wide-bodied aircraft and handle over three million tons of cargo annually. Facilities to be completed in the first phase include:
- A 563,000m² passenger terminal
- Two parallel runways, each 60m wide, one 3,700m long and the other 4,000m long with a runway separation distance of 2,200m
- Two parallel taxiways to facilitate simultaneous departures and arrivals
- 120 parking bays (51 with contact gates and 69 remote gates) and five of these capable of accommodating the Airbus A380
- 132m air traffic control tower (the tallest in Asia)
- Two five-storey parking garages with a capacity for 5,000 cars
- A 190,000m² cargo terminal
- Aircraft maintenance facilities: four fully equipped aircraft hangars to service up to 12 aircraft simultaneously
- Three separate catering facilities to cater for 65,000 airlines meals per day
- Landside road system: two two-lane roads inside the airport with a total length of 36km
- Utility system: 40,000m³ water tank; water treatment system for 12,000m³ of water per day; main transformer station for transforming electricity from 115kV to 24kV; eight garbage collection stations; seven telephone exchanges and two main exchanges
- Electrical railway system: a future extension will swiftly transport passengers to and from central Bangkok
- First-class hotel with 600 rooms operated by Accor Group under the Novotel brand
- Express freight facilities: one warehouse, one office building and 12 aircraft stands
PASSENGER TERMINAL COMPLEX
Designed by the MJTA group of consultants, comprising Murphy Jahn Architecture and TAMS consultant (USA) and ACT Engineering consultant (Thailand), the passenger terminal complex (comprising the terminal itself as well as the concourse) covers an area of 182,000m².
Seven floors and a basement will give the terminal a total floor area of over 563,000m², (six million ft²) making it the largest in the world. An innovative roof trellis (one of the largest in the world) designed to shade the building against the intense tropical sun and reduce the cost of air conditioning, will also be the largest of its kind.
There will be 360 check-in counters on ten check-in islands, all with connected baggage belts, and another 100 check-in counters not connected to the baggage belt system.
The domestic and international halls are clearly separated with the second floor as a dedicated arrival hall and the fourth floor as a departure hall. The structure’s main materials are steel and glass.
MJTA’s original design for the new terminal was criticised by Thai architects over a lack of ‘Thai characteristics’. The government responded by forming a special committee to ensure that these concerns were addressed and that the building displayed evidence of the local cultural and artistic heritage.
The contract for construction of the Suvarnabhumi Airport’s passenger terminal complex was awarded to Italian-Thai Development (Ital-Thai) after a lengthy bidding period. Other companies involved include Obayashi Corp, Takenaka Corp, CM Kamchang and Freyssinet International.
The concourse, with an area of 381,000m², is 40m wide, 3,213m long and 25m high. Its main structure is made of steel. Enclosure materials are locally manufactured glass and Teflon-coated fabric.
The construction of the City Airport Terminal in Makkasan and a 28.6km high-speed rail link to the new airport started in July 2005 and are planned for completion in November 2007, although this deadline, too, seems unlikely to be met.
The airport express, informally known as the Pink Line and operated jointly with SRT’s planned Red Line commuter service, will connect with the BTS Sukhumvit Line and MRT Blue Line at Phaya Thai and Phetchaburi stations respectively, offering airport-bound passengers a fast 15-minute limited-stop journey from the city.
Suvarnabhumi Airport will have one of the tallest control tower complexes in the world at 132m with 2,600m² of utility space.
The ATC tower and complex are being constructed by Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Co (Aerothai) who are contracted to provide air traffic control services, aeronautical telecommunication services, and air navigation aids services. They, in turn, have subcontracted the construction portion of the project to Siam Syntech-Unique Engineering consortium. The project is worth THB574.8m and was completed by late 2005.
The control tower, with an area of 60m², will be located in the landside area, north of the passenger terminal complex. The operational centre has been designed to provide excellent visibility for air traffic controllers across the north runway and taxiway, 4km away.
The elegant control tower will also be the major landmark of the new airport. The ATC complex, which will house 300 engineers and support staff, has been designed as a square, five-storey building, 22 m high, providing utility space of 4,200m².
This building will be the office of the aerodrome control unit, and the base of the air traffic service engineering systems, aeronautical telecommunications systems, airlines and airport services as well as other support units at the airport.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SERVICES
In order to ensure the efficiency and safety of air traffic control services at the second Bangkok International Airport, Aerothai plans to centralise Bangkok approach control at the control tower. Responsibility will be divided between the East Sector; responsible for approach control between bearing 031-210 and the West Sector; responsible for approach control between bearing 211-030.
In order to achieve the most efficient air traffic control services possible within the Bangkok Terminal Area (TMA), Aerothai will also implement Standard Instrument Departure (SID) and Standard Instrument Arrival Route (STAR) including reporting points, and realign route structure.
Aerodrome control will be responsible for air traffic control service within 5km of the airport including any airside traffic such as on the runways, taxiways and bays.
Communication systems will include air / ground radio systems via VHF and UHF and an Aeronautical Information Service (AIS). Navigation and surveillance aids systems will include:
- Doppler Very High-Frequency Omni Range / Distance Measuring Equipment (DVOR/DME)
- Instrument Landing System / Distance Measuring Equipment (ILS/DME), eight sets at THB40m ($0.9m) each
- Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS)
- ATC radar system
- Airport surface detection equipment
- Automatic dependence surveillance
A fibre optic communication network will be provided as the main media within the airport while communication with public networks will be made through a digital data network.
These two networks allow the air traffic controllers to communicate with related agencies efficiently, reliably and speedily via voice, data or video. The total budget for the construction and installation of systems is nearly THB3bn ($70m).
All 26 of the CTX 9000 explosive detection baggage scanning devices and their accessories were installed at the new airport by the end of 2005. The supplier for this equipment is the US company GE-Invision, with a contract worth $65m.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) required 20 more CTX (computerised tomography) baggage X-ray machines be installed at the airport prior to the opening to prevent security queues. IATA also required passenger security screening to be centralised at one or two locations, rather than at multiple locations as was originally planned.
The immigration information technology system was installed and implemented by CDG Systems Ltd and Merlin’s Solution International Co Ltd. The project was completed by the start of 2006.
The hold baggage in-line screening system was completed by the end of 2005 by the TCS Consortium: Dorsch Consult Ingenieurgesellschaff mbH, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick (Thailand) Ltd, JAL Aviation Consulting Incorporated, Japan Transport Engineering Corp (JTEC), Southeast Asia Technology Co Ltd (SEATECH), TEAM Consulting Engineering and Management Co Ltd, Project Planning Services Co Ltd and Santhaya Associated. The baggage in-line screening system was installed by Quatrotec Inc.
Road access to the new airport will be provided by a series of new highways connected to Bangkok’s existing outer ring road. The main access road is an elevated five-lane road that leads from the passenger terminal through the northern part of the site to the new Bangkok–Chonburi highway. Construction of these link and access roads was completed by the final quarter of 2005.
There are proposed plans to extend the Skytrain from Onnui to the new airport but nothing has been decided to date; SRT’s highspeed rail project from Huay-Kwang to Lad Krabang to Chonburi will have a spur line connecting to the new airport.
Airport roads to the front of the terminal building were completed in mid-2005 by the NTM Consortium: Nippon Koei Co Ltd, TESCO Ltd and MAA Consultant Ltd.
The central utility system comprises a 40,000m³ water tank, a water pumping station with a pressure control system, a 12,200m³/d wastewater treatment system and a control building. It is being built by Ital-Thai. The main transformer station is being constructed by Mitsubishi Corporation.
AIRPORT PASSENGER COMMUNICATIONS
Ericsson has completed the project of designing and integrating a multi-operator In-Building Solution (IBS) at the airport. The Ericsson IBS solution will allow passengers and staff to use advanced communication systems with seamless and high-quality coverage, as well as international roaming services.
The IBS system incorporates six different technologies, including WCDMA, and GSM. This solution will also be the foundation for the airport’s in-building communications network to migrate smoothly to 3G in the future.
Ericsson was awarded the contract for IBS at the airport by Thailand’s top five mobile operators – Advanced Info Service (AIS), DTAC, True Move, Hutchison CAT Wireless and Thai Mobile.
Ericsson has provided a range of services, including program management, network design, installation, integration and testing for the combined wireless application solutions that will serve the five operators’ customers. Under the project, around 1,200 antennas were installed to cover the whole area of the new airport.
MULTISTATIC DEPENDENT SURVEILLANCE
Sensis MDS (Multistatic Dependent Surveillance) is a system that provides surface surveillance for the runways, gateways and taxiways for the efficient and safe movement of aircraft and vehicles.
Sensis Corporation and Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai) have deployed Multistatic Dependent Surveillance (MDS) at the airport. The system has completed site acceptance testing and has demonstrated an accuracy of 5m.
Sensis MDS is a transponder multilateration system, uses low-cost, low-maintenance, non-rotating sensors to detect and track the movement of aircraft and vehicles based on their transponder signals.
The system provides precision comparable to global positioning systems, a higher update rate than traditional airport surveillance radar, and consistent surveillance performance regardless of weather conditions.
The system is also compatible with developing concepts such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), providing a link to future technologies.
SUBSEQUENT PHASES OF CONSTRUCTION
Long-term plans for four runways flanking two main terminals and two satellite buildings with a combined capacity capable of handling up to 100 million passengers and 6.4 million tonnes of cargo a year are on the drawing board.
The second phase of airport expansion involving the construction of a satellite building south of the main terminal is expected to begin three to five years after the completion of the first main terminal.
The third phase of the airport project should take place between 2010 and 2015, when the first passenger terminal will be expanded and a second midfield satellite built, increasing capacity to 73 million passengers annually.
Between 2015 and 2020 a second passenger terminal and the fourth runway are expected to be built, lifting capacity to 95 million passengers, followed thereafter by an expansion of the second passenger terminal to allow the airport to reach the expected maximum capacity of 100 million passengers a year.
The IATA is in favour of expansion plans being brought forward, as it believes that, based on current traffic growth, the airport will be short of gates by 2007. It also has concerns about the retail concession layout, noting that the airport’s terminal is slightly larger than that of Hong Kong International Airport’s, but that the area allocated for retail is only half that of Hong Kong.