Beijing’s new airport — currently under construction in the southern part of the city — is loaded with quality innovations that will make it one of the most efficient in the world, even as it becomes the world’s largest airport.
The long-term goal for the facility is to handle up to 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo each year.
A digital GPS control system was adopted for a ground compactor — a machine with a crane and a hanging hammer that repeatedly slams into the ground to compress soil and gravel in the construction of the roads and in laying the foundation of the runways. To make runways of high quality, it’s essential that the underlying ground is compacted to prevent earth movement that can crack or otherwise damage the runway surface.
The digital controller is new in China’s civil aviation construction, according to Dong Jiaguang, a manager in the new airport’s airfield engineering department.
Dong invented the system and has filed an intellectual property patent in China and the United States. The patent has already passed preliminary examination.
“Before the digital system, drivers had to count how many times the hammer had struck the ground. It was also difficult for quality supervisors to monitor drivers’ behavior and inspect the quality of the compaction,” Dong said. “It is unrealistic to sit there and count how many times the driver lifts the hammer.”
With the digital system, the machine counts for the drivers and inspectors, and records are sent to engineers’ computers automatically.
“Weak spots are easily discovered by the digital system, and further compaction can be carried out accordingly,” Dong said.
The system can also greatly improve precision.
“It used to depend on drivers’ experience to lift the hammer and pound the ground, but now with the installation of the GPS system, the machine has an eye and knows where to pound,” he said.
The runway areas of the new airport cover 1,800 hectares — about 2,500 soccer fields.
Innovations are also part of the roof of the terminal building, a star-shaped structure that is popular on social networks.
In the past, terminal roofs at some airports have been blown away by strong winds, but the new design uses bolts to link various parts of the roof to distribute the force. Now the roof bears the strain more equally, said Zhang Xiaofeng, deputy general manger of the airport’s terminal engineering department.
“The roof of the new airport can withstand stronger wind,” he said.
According to an earlier plan, by 2025 the airport will have four runways and 268 parking bays that will be able to accommodate 620,000 flights and handle 72 million passengers per year.
The airport, which has not yet been named, was designed to ease the pressure on Beijing Capital International Airport, which has reached its capacity.
It will serve as a second international aviation hub for the capital and is expected to open at the end of September 2019.