Brisbane Airport History
Adventure, world conflict, the emergence of modern airlines and the rise of air travel as a preferred mode of transport are hallmarks of Brisbane Airport’s evolution as an international gateway and economic engine for Queensland. Join us as we journey back in time to discover the history of Brisbane Airport.
The Brisbane Airport site was first used as a landing field in 1922, with Captain Jack Treacy the first to land his aircraft ‘The Queen of Sheba’ at Eagle Farm Aerodrome. Three years later, the 32-hectare Eagle Farm Aerodrome was officially opened. Scheduled flights between Brisbane and regional centres commenced in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with Qantas beginning operations at Eagle Farm Aerodrome in 1926. The first service to Sydney began in 1930 through Australian National Airways (later to become part of Ansett Australia).
In 1928 a huge crowd of 26,000 people welcomed Sir Charles Kingsford Smith when he touched down at Eagle Farm Aerodrome aboard his legendary aircraft, “Southern Cross”, completing a record-breaking 11,566 km, three-stage flight from Oakland, California to Brisbane, Australia. Today, you can view mighty ‘Southern Cross’ at a specially built memorial located off Airport Drive at Brisbane Airport. In the same year, Brisbane welcomed the legendary “hustling Hinkler” – Bert Hinkler – as he completed the first solo flight from England, landing at Eagle Farm Racecourse.
In 1931, commercial aviation activities were transferred from Eagle Farm to Archerfield. Eagle Farm was later reopened as a U.S. military airfield in the early 1940s and was substantially enlarged and improved.
With the end of the war in 1945, Eagle Farm’s hangars and administration facilities became the focus for Brisbane’s commercial aviation operations. The Department of Civil Aviation transferred airline operations from Archerfield back to Eagle Farm to take advantage of the facilities constructed during the war, the more favourable meteorological conditions, and a greater potential for airport expansion and development.
Reconstruction work and minor airport additions in the late 1950s accommodated the relatively low volume of traffic for the next decade.
In the early 1970s, in recognition of the growing inadequacies of Brisbane’s existing airport at Eagle Farm, a search was instigated for an alternative site for a major airport. Various sites were considered and an area of 2,700 hectares to the north-east of Eagle Farm was selected.
A former suburb of Brisbane, Cribb Island, famous because it was the childhood home of pop superstars, the Bee Gees, was resumed for the new airport.
This site had the advantage of permitting the development of widely spaced long parallel runways in a NNE/SSW direction. The site was also large enough for the runways to be sufficiently separated to permit independent (same direction) operations on each parallel runway and the central location of terminal facilities.
In addition, the new airport was planned to be compatible with the increasing industrial and seaport activities that were taking place along the Brisbane River. The main runway’s 01/19 orientation was shown to minimise the constraints on nearby development, particularly in regard to noise and height limitations. Following Government approval of a major Environmental Impact Study, construction of the new airport commenced in May 1980. By March 1988, the airport was operational.
In September 1996, the Australian Government passed the Airports Act 1996, which established the new regulatory arrangements for privatised airports including Brisbane Airport. Following a process of international competitive tendering, Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty Ltd purchased the long-term lease (50 + 49 years) of Brisbane Airport from the Commonwealth and took over management and operations on 2 July 1997.
The next decade was characterised by record passenger growth as well as unprecedented global challenges. BAC set out to redefine the role of the modern airport in Australia with a strong focus on community, sustainability, education, knowledge and economic growth.
Today, Brisbane Airport is one of Australia’s fastest growing airports. Since 2006 airport development has included the expansion and refurbishment of the International Terminal, the opening of a major high-speed road system, new parking infrastructure at the Domestic Terminal and the installation of leading-edge technology and services.
In 2011/12 more than 20 million domestic and international passengers passed through the airport and this number is expected to growth to 45 million by 2030. Over 20,000 people work at Brisbane Airport and around 430 aviation and non-aviation related businesses operate from the airport site.