1994: Japan Opens Its First New Airport in 16 Years

September 4, 1994

Japan’s Kansai International Airport was opened. The facility, which was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, is located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay in western Japan.

Kansai was the first major airport to begin operations in Japan in 16 years. The first regular flight to land at the new airport arrived from Guam a little after six o’clock on the inaugural Sunday morning in 1994. Those on board the plane included a couple that had been married in an in-flight wedding ceremony to coincide with the airport’s grand opening. About an hour after the plane’s arrival, the first scheduled passenger flight from the airport left for the city of Fukuoka to the south.

Kansai Terminal 1

A big reason for building Kansai in the first place was to help relieve overcrowding at other airports in Japan. The New York Times reported, “The airport has created enough desperately needed landing slots that for the first time it will be possible to fly to a host of countries that previously had no direct air links to Japan, like Nepal, Mongolia, Hungary, Mexico, and South Africa.”

Kansai is an international hub for All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Nippon Cargo Airlines. It also serves as a hub for Peach, which was the first international low-cost carrier in Japan. One of Kansai’s key features is the Wing Shuttle, a state-of-the-art driverless people-mover system transporting individuals through main passenger Terminal 1 and more specifically from the tip of one facility wing to the tip of another wing.

Sky Gate Bridge

The Wing Shuttle made its debut on the same day as the airport itself.  This terminal, measuring over a mile (1.6 kilometers) in length, also has the distinction of being the world’s longest airport terminal. In addition, Sky Gate Bridge R at Kansai is the longest double-decked truss bridge. With a length of 12,303 feet (3,750 meters), this bridge carries three lanes of automobile traffic on the upper deck and two tracks of rail traffic below over a total of nine truss spans.

In 2001, Kansai became one of only 10 structures selected by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for its “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” awards. Other notable examples of transportation infrastructure receiving this honor from ASCE included the Panama Canal and Golden Gate Bridge.

For more information on Kansai International Airport, please check out http://www.engineering-timelines.com/scripts/engineeringItem.asp?id=1280 and http://ce-seminartopics-jpa.blogspot.com/p/airport-on-water-kansai-international.html.

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