Beijing’s upcoming mega-airport, Daxing International, has come one step closer to operational readiness after successfully welcoming its first trial flight on January 22. According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), a Cessna Citation Sovereign 680 made a successful landing after a 42-minute flight, marking the start of a nearly two-month evaluation to assess the airport’s four runways as well as its navigational aids, lighting system, and air traffic control procedures. The new airport will undergo further testing of its communications, navigations, and surveillance and air traffic management systems before opening on September 30.
Billed as the world’s largest airport upon completion, Daxing broke ground in 2014. Plans call for it to accept traffic overflow from Beijing’s existing Capital International Airport, which now operates well beyond its planned capacity. Last year Capital International handled more than 100 million passengers, maintaining its title as the world’s second busiest airport after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Officials expect Daxing’s mega-airport hub to reduce passenger traffic at its sister airport to 82 million annually.
Daxing will also replace the city’s secondary airport, Beijing Nanyuan Airport, which will reportedly end commercial operations when the new airport opens. Designed to handle 1.2 million passengers annually, Nanyuan is the first and oldest commercial airport in China.
With an estimated price tag ranging from $11.2 billion to $13 billion, Daxing lies 28 miles south of downtown Beijing and will initially feature four runways before expanding to six. Authorities expect its 7.5 million-sq-ft terminal to serve 45 million passengers annually by 2021 and 72 million by 2025. Planners expect Daxing eventually to handle 880,000 aircraft movements and 100 million passengers annually.
After completion, the airport will serve as a hub for Skyteam alliance members including China Eastern, Delta, and Air France-KLM. Plans call for Star Alliance airlines Air China, United Airlines, and Air Canada to remain at Capital International. The CAAC said the transition of airline operations to the new airport will start this coming winter and continue over 12 months.
According to the International Air Transport Association, China will displace the U.S. as the world’s largest aviation market by 2022. The CAAC predicts that the number of passengers flying in and out of Beijing will reach 150 million by 2025.