Kansai International Airport has been sinking since it was built in 1994, and recent reports suggest that the problem is getting worse. Is the airport in danger of collapsing?
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Kansai International Airport (KIX) is one of the world’s busiest airports, handling over 24 million passengers in 2016. It is also one of the most unique, being built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay. But since its opening in 1994, the airport has been beset by a number of problems, including a major typhoon in 2018 that caused severe damage to its runways.
One of the most serious issues facing KIX is that it is slowly sinking into the bay. This is due to the fact that the airport was not built on solid bedrock, but on a layer of soft sediment that has been slowly compacting over time. As a result, the airport has had to undertake a number of costly corrective measures, including building massive concrete pillars to support therunways, and constantly monitoring and adjusting the airport’s drainage systems to prevent further sinking.
Despite these efforts, Kansai Airport continues to sink at a rate of about 2 centimeters per year. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over time, and there are concerns that the airport could eventually be forced to close if it sinks too much further. For now, though, Kansai Airport remains open for business and continues to be one of the busiest airports in Asia.
The History of Kansai Airport
Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港, Kansai Kokusai Kūkō) is an international airport located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay off the Honshu coast, 38 km (24 mi) southwest of Osaka Station and 40 km (25 mi) southeast of Kobe Station. The airport serves the Kansai region of Japan, which includes the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. It is colloquially known as Kankū () in Japanese.
The airport was opened on 4 September 1994 to relieve overcrowding at Osaka International Airport (now Itami Airport), and now handles around 24 million passengers per year. Its 2runways (1 cross runway) are connected by a two-level terminal building with terminal 1 on the upper level and terminal 2 on the lower level. The airport has ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 certifications.
In fiscal year 2019, 61 airlines operated flights to and from KIX; connecting it with a total of 147 airports in 53 countries and regions worldwide (including 28 domestic airports). The airport also serves as a hub for All Nippon Airways, Nippon Cargo Airlines and Peach Aviation. Additionally, major cargo carriers such as Cargolux and Nippon Express have facilities at the airport.
Kansai International Airport Co., Ltd., the operating company for the facility, opened a new air traffic control tower on 19 November 2019. The new tower is 293.8 m (962 ft) tall, making it Japan’s second-tallest ATC tower after that of Tokyo International Airport’s Haneda Air Traffic Control Center.
The Current Situation
Kansai International Airport is still sinking, but recent stabilization efforts have greatly slowed the rate at which it is sinking.
The airport was built on reclaimed land, and it is thought that the land is still settling. This, combined with the weight of the buildings and concrete, has caused the airport to sink.
The situation was exacerbated by Typhoon Lephar in 2010, which caused significant damage to the airport and caused it to sink even further.
Stabilization efforts have been underway since then, and they have been successful in slowing the rate of sinking. The airport is still open and operational, although there are concerns that it may need to be closed in the future if the situation worsens.
The Future of Kansai Airport
Kansai International Airport (KIX) is an important transportation hub for western Japan, handling over 20 million passengers a year. But the airport has a big problem: it’s sinking.
The airport was built on man-made islands in Osaka Bay, and it’s slowly sinking into the sea. The problem is caused by a combination of factors, including the weight of the buildings on the island, subsidence of the sand used to create the island, and erosion from the sea.
The sinking has been an ongoing problem since the airport opened in 1994, and it’s expected to continue for the foreseeable future. In 2015, Kansai Airport spent $109 million to raise the level of the runway by 2.4 meters (8 feet). This was done by injecting concrete into the ground beneath the runway.
The work was necessary to keep Kansai Airport open, but it’s not a long-term solution. The airport will continue to sink, and eventually it will have to be abandoned.
There are several proposals for what to do when that day comes. One idea is to build a new airport on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. This would be similar to Kansai Airport, but it would be much larger and would be able to handle more traffic.
Another proposal is to build a floating airport in Osaka Bay. This would be a massive structure that would sit on pontoons and would be able to move up and down with the tide. It would be expensive to build, but it would be able to handle even more traffic than Kansai Airport.
A third proposal is to build a tunnel connecting Kansai Airport with Honshu, the main island of Japan. This would allow passengers to take a train or bus from Kansai Airport directly into Osaka or Kyoto without having to go through security at the airport. The drawback of this proposal is that it would be very expensive and time-consuming to build such a long tunnel.
Whatever happens, Kansai Airport will eventually have to be abandoned due to its sinking into Osaka Bay. When that day comes, there are several proposals for what should happen next, but it’s not clear which one will ultimately be chosen.