Wuhan Tianhe International Airport opened in April 1995. The airport, which is situated 26km north of Wuhan City, serves the Hubei Province and has the distinction of being the busiest airport in central China.

The airport handled 8,356,340 passengers during 2007 and is now the country's fourth hub after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. There is a single concrete paved runway (04/22) with dimensions of 11,155ft in length (3,400m), which is used to serve what is now recognised as one of the fastest growing airports in China (2007 saw a 39.8% increase in traffic movements, a 37% increase of passenger traffic and a 21.5% increase in cargo traffic).

The public airport, with a single passenger terminal, is operated by Wuhan Tianhe International Airport Co Ltd which is responsible to the provincial assembly and the national government. Before 2010, the airport is expected to be serving at least five international and 100 domestic routes.

Wuhan Tianhe developments

Recent developments at the airport have included the construction of the second terminal and the planning of a second runway to accommodate the new A380 superjumbo and for increasing passenger figures (next phase of expansion is expected to cost 10bn yuan). The Wuhan Tianhe airport second terminal began operations on 15 April 2008 (construction began in February 2005). The new terminal has a total area of 800,000m² (floor area of 121,200m², four times larger than T1) with 64 aircraft parking bays (122,000 aircraft movements a year).

The facility, the largest terminal in Central China, can handle 7,500 passengers an hour during peak periods (T2 has a design capacity of 13 million passengers a year) and the airport is now expected to handle over 12.2 million passengers a year by 2010. The terminal also has an additional cargo capacity of 320,000t a year. The expansion project also included a 38,000m² car park, 250,000m² apron and the 20,000m² cargo warehouse. The total investment for the project was 3.372bn yuan ($421.5m).

Next stage of expansion

The plans for the next phase of expansion work are expected to be completed by the end of 2008, according to an agreement signed between the China Civil Aviation authority (CAAC) and the provincial government.

“Facilities at Wuhan Tianhe Airport include two commercially important persons (CIP) lounges.”

Wuhan is expected to become a pilot city in the reform of the Chinese air transport sector. Any new reform policy to be rolled out nationwide will be trialled in Wuhan first. CAAC have put forward policies to support the development of Wuhan as a new aviation hub in Central China.

The CAAC have agreed to provide 150m yuan ($18.8m) in funds to upgrade the security infrastructure at Wuhan airport and also other airports in Hubei province. In addition 50m yuan ($6.3 million) will be made available by CAAC to transform Wuhan into an alternative destination for the A380.

The expanded airport is expected to become an integrated transportation hub with a high-speed passenger rail link and subway system connected to the airport. The planning and construction of the new rail links will start before 2010.

The US investment bank Morgan Stanley announced at the end of September 2008 that it intends to invest some 700m yuan in the improvement of the airport with returns expected over 15 years.

Wuhan design and construction

The new T2 was based on the competition-winning design of CPG Consultants Pte Ltd, and consists of three primary levels with level 1 for arrival and level 2 for departure with an elevated roadway to serve level 2.

The main terminal building frontage features a large cantilever canopy that provides both arrival and departure halls with 300m of double kerb side parking area one above the other. The roof is a tied-arch system with three main arches, each around 45m apart. Each intermediate arch is tilted towards the kerbside to serve as a seismic design. There are 20 contact stands with passenger aero-bridges and four remote stands to accommodate commercial aircraft of code C, D and E types (ICAO designation). There are two pier concourses that extend beyond the terminal building to provide boarding for up to 13 million passengers a year.

“Wuhan Tianhe is now the country’s fourth hub after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.”

The main check-in hall is outfitted with 80 counters, each having a direct feed to the baggage conveyor system. There are 18 positions for a central passenger security screening system and ten luggage claim carousels. Over 12% of the floor area has been given over to retail concessions (shops, restaurants and bars).

Other facilities at Wuhan Tianhe Airport include two commercially important persons (CIP) lounges, several private airline lounges and an arrivals lounge and business centres.

CPG Consultants Pte Ltd (who were paid $260m) were responsible for providing a series of services for the project including master planning, architectural design, mechanical and electrical engineering, civil and structural engineering, quantity surveying and project management.