A Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Cairns just made history

A Virgin Australia 737 has become the first aircraft to take off from Brisbane’s $1.3 billion second runway, which puts the city on par with major hubs like Sydney and Singapore Changi.

The parallel runway, which is the largest aviation construction project in Australia’s history, will allow flight movements at Brisbane Airport to more than double from 50 movements an hour to 110.

This morning Virgin Australia flight VA781 to Cairns was given a water cannon salute before it thundered down the new runway in a history-making takeoff to officially open the runway.

This @VirginAustralia 737 is the first plane to take off from @BrisbaneAirport‘s $1.3b new runway as VA781 to Cairns, after a water cannon salute on the tarmac. View from seat 20A pic.twitter.com/QSfzzu2TGV

Today’s flight was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the first flight between Brisbane and Tropical North Queensland by long-defunct carrier Barrier Reef Airways on July 12, 1947.

Fortunately, the anniversary happened two days after Queensland reopened its borders to visitors from all states and territories, except Victoria, in a move that signals the revival of the state’s suffering tourism industry.

The Virgin Australia 737 is given a water cannon salute before taking off. Picture: Brisbane AirportSource:Supplied

The $1.3 billion privately funded runway project — the largest in Brisbane Airport’s 32-year history — was completed in May after eight years of construction.

Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said the runway was more than “a slab of very expensive asphalt”.

“When I look at that 3.3 kilometre stretch of runway, I see hope,” he said today.

“I see hope because I believe, absolutely, that travel is at the heart of modern society and the human need to explore means that ultimately nothing will keep us grounded forever.

The new runway significantly enhances capacity at Brisbane Airport.Source:Supplied

“While current world challenges mean less demand right now, the timing of this opening is fortuitous. Had we been any later, the project may have been delayed significantly creating more burden on the economy and dampening our spirits further.

“Instead Brisbane is an ideal position to take advantage of all opportunities on the road to recovery from COVID.

“Today we are making history. We are creating the future. And very soon, once again, we will be connecting the world.”

Construction of the runway in 2017.Source:Supplied

The runway is 60m wide and 3.3km long, large enough to handle A380 superjumbos and the world’s largest aircraft, the six-engine Antonov 225.

It will be used by aircraft heading to destinations to the north and west of Brisbane, such as Cairns and Singapore, while the airport’s existing runway will serve aircraft heading south and east, such as to Sydney and the United States.

Virgin Australia was the first airline to use the runway. Picture: Brisbane AirportSource:Supplied

This morning’s runway launch was also a moment of celebration in an otherwise nightmare year for Brisbane Airport’s home carrier Virgin Australia, which went into voluntary administration in March as COVID-19 restrictions devastated the global airline industry.

Last month, American private equity firm Bain Capital struck a deal with administrations Deloitte to buy the airline, with a creditors’ meeting due in August.

Bain has said it intended to retain the current management team led by chief executive Paul Scurrah, and keep Virgin Australia based in Brisbane.

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