It seems to have been a bonanza year for birthdays, with dozens of gateways across the globe celebrating milestone events this year ranging from tenth anniversaries to commemorating 100 years of flight!
Among those celebrating good times is Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which marked its not so insignificant 80th birthday on July 22 with a huge party, display of vintage aircraft, and a ‘ballet’ performed by its emergency rescue vehicles and airfield trucks.
But, perhaps, most interesting of all, it has appointed 29 year old Vancouver Art Institute graduate, Jaeger Mah, as its own in-house reporter/storyteller, and he has agreed to live at the airport for 80 days and 80 nights and ‘earn his keep’ by recording everyday activity at YVR for posterity.
To make his task easier, the airport has equipped Mah with an HD video camera, editing software and access to the people, places and behind-the-scenes spaces that most visitors to YVR never get to see.
And if his prolific number of video postings, photos and blogs at www.LiveatYVR.ca and on social media sites are anything to go by, Mah is clearly loving his 80-day vacation on the Sea Island (with nights spent at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel).
Mah, who 48 days into his ‘layover’ at YVR had more than 1,300 followers on Facebook, told Airport World: “I think the most exciting thing I’ve discovered about YVR is its innovation!
“The airport appears to embrace innovation in all aspects of its day to day business, from its volunteer, community outreach and environmental programmes to its architectural design and operational technology.
“I was very proud when I found out YVR was the first airport in the world to use the Tarsier system, a radar detection system used to locate Foreign Object Debris on the airport operating surface.
“What’s even cooler is that this technology can locate items as small as a luggage wheel or even loose gravel within the accuracy of three metres. During one of my job shadowing experiences I toured the system. The video is available on my blog.”
Hamburg Airport celebrated its 100th birthday earlier this year making it one of the world’s oldest commercial airports.
A century ago sheep grazed in the fields around an airship hangar that occupied the site of today’s terminals and central Airport Plaza complex.
The history of Hamburg Airport began in March 1910, when Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin enthusiastically addressed a large gathering of Hamburg residents about the future of airships.
His appeal, and the backing of some prominent Hamburg residents, led to the airport being born a year later, its Zeppelin hangar opened in 1912 being joined by the first aeroplanes a short time later.
Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport, says: “Turning 100 is something very special. Hamburg Airport is the oldest airport in Germany. It all began with a single airship hangar and just a few hundred passengers. Today, more than 35,500 passengers pass through our ultra-modern terminals every day. We want to celebrate this success story with young and old all year long.”
An open-air concert, held on the airport apron this summer as part of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival was possibly the high point of Hamburg’s year of celebrations.
Elsewhere, Hong Kong International Airport has opened an exhibition to mark the centenary of the first powered flight in Hong Kong.
The Farman biplane flight – made by Belgian aviator, Charles Van den Born –took off from the beach in Sha Tin, New Territories, on March 18, 1911. He had flown the aircraft in Saigon and Bangkok before arriving in Hong Kong and then went on to fly in Canton (the modern Guangzhou) before returning to France.
The flight took place 14 years before Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport opened for business and 87 years before the present day gateway handled its first flight.
Celebrating a similar milestone in April was Sydney Airport, which marked the 100th anniversary of the first flight made from the present day airport site.
Captain Joseph Joel Hammond, whose Bristol box-kite biplane was in the air for less than 10 minutes, made the historic flight on April 18, 1911.
Back then the area was Ascot Racecourse. Today, it forms part of Sydney Airport’s east-west runway.
Reflecting on the anniversary, the then Sydney Airport CEO, Russell Balding, said: “Captain Hammond was one of the early pioneers of aviation. His flights attracted great public interest with thousands of Sydneysiders buying tickets to witness the spectacle of a man flying. Media reports variously described Captain Hammond as ‘The flying man’, ‘The bird-man’ and an ‘aeronaut’.
“Captain Hammond was obviously a man with an adventurous spirit, but I doubt that he could have foreseen how Australia’s aviation industry would develop over the next 100 years.
“His biplane weighed about 500 kilogrammes and the first flight attained a height of only 40 metres and travelled around 10 kilometres. Today, an A380 taking off at Sydney Airport weighs about 560 tonnes, cruises at an elevation of about 12 kilometres and has a range of more than 15,000 kilometres.”
The first passenger to fly from the site was Captain Hammond’s wife, Ethelwyn. Last year, more than 35 million passengers passed through the Australian gateway.
For the record, heroic Captain Hammond was killed in 1918 when the plane he was flying on a war bonds promotional tour crashed into a tree. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
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Another airport clocking up a significant landmark in 2011 was Frankfurt Airport, which celebrated 75 years at its current site on July 8.
The gateway began life in 1936 as the Rhine-Main Airport and Airship Base and handled more than 5,000 aircraft and Zeppelin movements and 58,000 passengers in its first year of operations.
A route network of 27 different destinations, including services to London, Paris, Rome and most major European capitals, meant that Frankfurt was an international hub from the very beginning.
Further north, Tallinn Airport in Estonia, officially celebrated its 75th birthday on September 20, although the Baltic gateway’s history can be traced back to as early as 1923 when Estonia’s first airline, Aeronaut, was established.
When it opened as Ülemiste Airport in 1936, the gateway comprised three 300-metre long runways arranged in a triangular shape, a hangar and a navigation system.
Despite not having a dedicated passenger terminal until 1954 – the outbreak of WW2 delayed its completion – the airport handled 13,000 passengers in 1937 courtesy of flights to Helsinki, Riga, Warsaw, Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and Leningrad (now St Petersburg).
In the US, Reagan Washington National Airport celebrated its 70th birthday on June 16. Opened by legendary US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the airport replaced Washington’s Hoover and Washington National airports when it opened for business and served 344,000 passengers in its first year.
Within five years of opening, the airport was handling 1mppa and today, Reagan National serves more than 18mppa.
National Airport was built and operated by the US federal government until 1987 when the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) was created and took over the lease to operate and modernize the gateway.
Washington National Airport changed its name and became Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on 6 February 1998.
Over the last 70 years, Reagan National Airport has been transformed significantly. In 1997, a new complex opened with the construction of Terminal B/C, an entirely new two-level roadway system, two parking garages, and direct connections to the Metrorail.
In recent years, the airport’s historic Terminal A has also been restored with extensive work done on the façade.
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport went platinum on September 1 when it celebrated its 70th anniversary.
The then-named Dorval Airport was built on the site of a former racetrack acquired by the Canadian government and was, in its early days, used to train pilots from Commonwealth countries and to dispatch military aircraft in support of the war effort.
It became a commercial airport after WW2 ended in 1945, initially served by four airlines handling around 500 passengers daily. A decade later it was the largest Canadian airport handling one million passengers per annum.
The airport was renamed Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, in honour of the former Canadian Prime Minister in 2004, and today welcomes around 13mppa and serves 130 destinations.
It commemorated the milestone by publishing a special supplement in La Presse and The Gazette newspapers and holding a retrospective exhibition in the transborder (United States) departures hall.
Singapore Changi marked its 30th anniversary in July 2011 by handling a record 4.17 million passenger movements during the month, while Incheon toasted its 10th anniversary with a string of events that included an open-air concert attended by over 10,000 people.
Most recently, Orlando International Airport celebrated its 30th birthday on October 2, and the Florida gateway decided to celebrate its ‘pearl anniversary’ by holding a Community Day for its neighbours.
Festivities included live music and dance; airline giveaways; theme park characters; face painting for the kids; and a sidewalk sale by airport merchants.
Although commercial airlines have served the airport site since the 1960s, it was principally a military airfield (McCoy Air Force Base) until 1975, and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority counts the October 2, 1981 opening of its $300 million passenger terminal as the date today’s gateway airport was born.
Over the course of the last 30 years, the airport has doubled in size, added two new runways, two new airsides and has seen its passenger traffic increase by nearly 600%, although it has kept the MCO code from its time as McCoy AFB.
To put the airport’s growth in perspective, in 1981 just over six million passengers passed through MCO. In 2010, it handled 35.5 million. Similarly, the size of the gateway has increased from 7,000 acres to 14,000 acres today.
Phil Brown, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said: “The region’s diverse economy helped spark the need for a world-class airport capable of growing and delivering a quality travel experience.”