Australian Capital City Airports Part 2.


This week we will start with Hobart Airport. Hobart could be in the most picturesque location and one of the smallest of the capital city airports! The airport currently welcomes up to 2.8 million passengers a year. Hobart airport stands on the Lutruwita lands of the First Nations People.

 This comparatively small airport was commissioned in 1956 on a site previously known as the Cambridge Airport. The Cambridge Airport only catered to light aircraft. With Australia’s interest in Antarctica, Prime Minister Ben Chifley announced that a larger airport to cater to heavy aircraft would be constructed at Llanherne. The original name for the airport was Llanherne Airport.

  • In its first year, the airport processed 120,086 passengers and 11,724 tonnes of freight, ranking fifth in Australia.
  • In 1957 the airport consisted of a small terminal building, two freight hangars, a fuel depot, a weather station, and an administration building.
  • The Federal Government lengthened and upgraded the runway for jets in 1964 and again in 1985 to cater for the Boeing 747. 
  • The current domestic terminal opened in 1976, and the international in 1986. The airport was corporatised in 1988 when the Federal Airports Corporation was created.
  • Hobart airport was privatised in 1998 with a 99-year lease purchased by Hobart International Airport Pty Ltd, a Tasmania Government-owned company operated by Hobart Ports Corporation.
  • In 2004, for the first time in 30 years, the domestic terminal was developed to include a security screening area and a realignment of the carpark. 
  • 2005 saw Hobart Airport experience record annual passenger numbers, so plans were made to extend the seating capacity. 
  •  In 2007 the Tasmanian Government sold the Tasmanian Ports Corporation to the Tasmanian Gateway Consortium. 
  • In 2008 a four-star hotel motel was constructed on the airport site. The hotel has 78 rooms. 

Air Cargo

The airport has two domestic freight areas and cold storage and warehousing rooms constructed by Link Logistics in 2018. The cold storage rooms are temperature-controlled storage solutions used for seafood, viticulture, berry fruits and restauranteurs  

Hobart Airport was the last capital city airport to be under Government control. Queensland Investment Corporation and Schiphol Group currently own the airport.

Perth Airport

Perth Airport is the fourth busiest in Australia, and before Covid was processing 15 million passengers a year. The airport site is part of a 2,105-hectare estate situated 17 kilometres from the city centre. The airport is located on the Whadjuk people’s lands and other Noongar Nation members.

Before 1938, all civilian aircraft landed at Maylands Aerodrome and occasionally Langley Park on the Perth River foreshore. However, it soon became apparent that more extensive facilities were required.

In early 1942, the current airport location was converted from a golf course (Dunreath)   to a RAAF base, which was utilised until the end of World War II in 1945.   The Guildford Aerodrome changed its name to Perth airport in 1952. In 1953 an international terminal was constructed from second-hand war materials at $180 000. Domestic airlines moved from their hangars in 1962 to form a combined domestic/international airport.

In 1980 the transport minister of the time announced that a new international terminal would be built. Then, in 1986, Prime Minister Bob Hawke unveiled the $60 million International Terminal to the east of the airport, with a new control tower.

  • In 1997 in line with airport privatisation, Perth Airports Pty Ltd took up a 99-year leasehold of the Perth Airport.
  • In 2005 following the collapse of Ansett in 2002, Terminal one was extended.
  • In 2009 an inaugural Partnership Agreement was signed with representatives of the Noongar families associated with the land on which Perth Airport operates, followed by the upgrades to terminals three and four.
  • 2013 saw the opening of the viewing platform. From 2015 – 2019 there were significant expansions and conversions to the airport, including the introduction of Costco and DFO outlets.
  • When Covid hit in 2020, the construction of the Skybridge was completed to link the airport with the new train station. 
  • The Airport train station opened in 2022 and is part of the Forrestfield Airport Link currently under construction. The link will open in October

To see the latest vision for Perth Airport

Air Cargo

Qantas domestic and international freight services operate from Perth Airport and onsite freight companies such as VIP, Toll, and Air Menzies International.

Adelaide Airport

Adelaide Airport is the gateway to Adelaide and South Australia. The airport processed 8.5 million passengers in 2018. Passenger numbers more than doubled since the privatisation of the airport in 1998, with international passenger numbers reaching 1 million. Adelaide Airport is situated on the ancestral lands of Kaurna Yarta Miyurna First Nations Peoples.

The first official flight from England to Australia – the Air Race of 1919, landed in Adelaide with aviator brothers Ross and Keith Smith. They completed the trip in a restored Vickers Vimy converted bomber, now housed inside a memorial building at Adelaide Airport.

Adelaide’s original airport was established in 1921 on land purchased from Captain Harry Butler nine kilometres from the city. The airport was set up to provide an airmail service between Adelaide and Sydney.

As the need for more space arose, a new location was needed. So, the Adelaide airport moved to Parafield in 1927. Parafield is still used as an airport today. 

The current Adelaide Airport is situated in West Beach, around 6 kilometres from the city centre, where flights first commenced in 1954 with nothing but a lean-to-passenger terminal.

  • In 1957 the commonwealth funded what was to be a temporary terminal which ended up being used until 2005. 
  • International flights became available in 1982, but the original international terminal was limited to only one gate.   
  • In October 2005, Prime Minister John Howard opened the brand new dual domestic/International terminal.
  • Adelaide Airport has continued to expand, with the latest major overhaul being a  $165 million terminal expansion project due to be completed in 2021.

Air Cargo

Air freight facilities at Adelaide Airport include direct airside access and cold storage. In addition, Qantas airfreight operates from Adelaide domestic and international terminals.

Darwin Airport

Darwin International Airport is in the middle of Darwin. It was built in 1937 and is the tenth busiest airport in Australia. The Larrakia people are the traditional owners of Darwin Airport’s land.     The airport shares runways with the RAAF base in Darwin. As the first port of call to our vast country, it has seen its fair share of conflict.

The first civilian airport in Darwin was the Parap Airfield which took some hits from the Japanese bombing in the second World War.   Allies utilised the airport to project air power into the Pacific. It hosted fighter aircraft such as Spitfires, Hudson Bombers, and Kitty Hawks.

  • In 1945 the Department of Aviation made the military airport available for civilians, and the Parap Airfield was closed. 
  • On 20 April 1954, Soviet spy, Evdokia Petrova defected at the airport  – KGB agents escorted her out of Australia.
  • Between 1950 and 1974, the Darwin Airport was an essential stop for flights between Australia and Asia and then onwards to Europe. However, the introduction of long-range aircraft in the 1970s meant those stops were no longer required.
  • In 1974 Cyclone Tracy flattened Darwin, and the airport was used to ferry almost 26,000 people out of Darwin. In 1991 a new passenger terminal was opened with four aerobridges.
  • In 1999 the airport was used to assist UN operations in East Timor and supported medical evacuations after the 2002 Bali bombings.
  • In 2008 the Australian Infrastructure Fund (AIX announced that Darwin Airport would undergo a $60 million expansion with a 65% increase in floor space.
  • 2009 – Garuda Airlines suspended their service with Darwin Airport (after 30 years of service), citing economic reasons. This move left the airport without non-Australian carriers until 2010, when Indonesia Air Asia started flying from Bali to Darwin.
  • With the $85 Million expansion on the way, Darwin attracted further international airlines and once again became a hub for overseas visitors.
  • During the 2020 Covid pandemic, Darwin operated non-stop flights between Darwin and Heathrow.

Air Cargo

Qantas air freight operates domestic and international freight services from Darwin Airport and several other freight companies. In 2020 a $15 million joint venture between local and national exporters was announced to construct a freight and cold storage facility at the airport.

Canberra Airport

We can’t forget our official capital’s airport. Canberra Airport is situated on the lands of the traditional owners, the Ngunnawal people. The airport began in the 1920s as Dickson Airfield, an emergency landing strip for aircraft flying from Adelaide to Sydney.

In late 1926 Dickson Airfield was declared unsuitable for many aviation purposes, so Airforce Captain Henri Petre deemed a paddock in the Majura Valley owned by local graziers to be ‘absolutely ideal for flying’, with landing distances of ‘not less than 1000 yards in all directions.”

The land was leased to the Department of Defence and handed to civil aviation control four years later.   In 1936 a large hangar was built at the northern end of Canberra’s present terminal.

  • By 1939 work began, constructing a military base on the opposite side of the airfield from the civilian hangar. The airport operated as a civilian and defence base until 2003. 
  • The northeast side of Canberra Airport now houses and operates the Prime Minister’s fleet of aircraft.
  • Over the decades, the airport runways have been upgraded and lengthened as aircraft sizes increased and more aircraft arrived.
  • The terminals have also improved vastly since the original lean-to was constructed in 1926. 
  • With the new Parliament House opening in 1988, a new domestic terminal was constructed along with some significant restructuring of the existing terminal.
  • As with all Australian airports, Canberra was privatised in 1998 and sold to businessman Terry Snow. At this time, the terminals were all owned by existing airlines controlling new works. This meant no upgrades could be made until Terry Snow purchased the ex-Ansett terminal from administrators following the fall of the airline.
  • Major runway, apron and carpark upgrades were carried out with additions to the surrounding airport precinct. 
  • In 2013 the new Canberra Airport terminal opened. The $420 million project boasts ten aerobridges and parking for 3300 people. 

Air Cargo

Air cargo from Canberra is curfew free and is carried by a combination of defence aircraft, domestic passenger aircraft and dedicated domestic aircraft and from time-to-time international freight aircraft.  

We hope you have enjoyed our focus on Australian Capital City Airports.  We will be looking at regional airports near you in the coming weeks!

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