The Billion-Dollar Question: How Much Does It Cost To Build An Airport?

Owning an airport can be a thrilling yet challenging goal, as airports are complex and expensive to build. But if you’re serious about making your airport dreams a reality, it’s crucial to have an estimate of how much it will cost.

It costs $10 million to build an airport runway of 3,281′ (1 km) and $500 per 11 sq ft (1 sq m) to build a passenger terminal, which doesn’t account for the value of the land. Other factors, such as natural terrain and technology deployed, may also raise the price.  

In this article, we’ll discuss the cost of building an airport.

How Much Does It Cost To Build an Airport?

If you want a small airport, your runway needs to be at least 5,900′ (1,800 m), almost twice the length quoted earlier, which means you’ll spend at least $20 million on the runway alone. 

While you might not need a passenger terminal for a private airport, you’ll at least need an area to store your plane, especially if you live in extreme climates. So you’ll need to set aside upward of $30 million for your airport. 

But this is a conservative estimate because if your private plane is much larger than a two-seater, you’ll need a longer runway. Also, you need to factor in the cost of land, labor, and materials.

Can You Build Your Own Private Airport? (Like John Travolta!)

Renting a private airport today is prohibitively expensive, making owning a private runway seem more viable. Also, unlike public airports, a private airport gives you more control over when to fly.  

You can build your own private airport like John Travolta if you own personal property, follow the correct regulations, and obtain the necessary permits. The cost of building an airport includes the price of the land, construction, initial planning, and getting the required clearance. 

To build your airport, the essential factors you need to consider are clearance with authority and land. Let’s explore what you should know about the two.

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Virgin Atlantic Check In Desk Manchester Airport

Rules and Regulations for Building A Private Airport

When constructing a private airport, you should comply with the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) rules and regulations to ensure the airspace’s safe use and protect both pilots and people on the ground. 

Ninety days before starting construction, you must file a notice containing a sketch of the landing area with your state aviation agency and the FAA. The drawing should include details such as the land’s longitude, latitude, width, and length. 

It should also show the obstructions within the runway’s vicinity, including buildings, roads, towers, and high-line wires. If the FAA doesn’t find any potential aeronautical hazards, you’ll receive zoning approval or a building permit and can proceed with your construction. 

But you must also meet the FAA’s requirements for a private runway, including:

  • Be at least 50′ (15.24 m) wide and 500′ (152.4 m) long.
  • Be well-marked and appropriately lit.
  • Have clear departure and approach indications for the pilot.
  • Have enough signage indicating there’s a private airport.
  • Not be used for commercial purposes.

How Much Space Do You Need To Construct an Airport? 

The space you need to build an airport depends on the type of airplanes you’ll be flying in and out and the structures you want to establish. For instance, private jets would need more space than single-engine aircraft.

You also have to consider the zoning laws in your area. The FAA has strict regulations regarding how close your runway can be to other structures, including homes, businesses, and roads.

For a modest airport with one building, a single control tower, and a single runway, you need around 75 acres (30 hectares). If you want more than one runway, the space you need might range from 100 to a few thousand acres depending on the size of your aircraft.

When determining how much space you need, it’s always best to overcompensate, as it can be difficult to obtain more land later on if you want to expand.

How Many Years Does It Take To Build an Airport?

Building an airport takes two to three years if the terrain is flat. Construction will likely take longer if the land is uneven and has many obstacles. Poor soil drainage may also increase the construction time. 

Other factors that may influence the time it’ll take to build an airport include:

  • The size of the airport: A small airport takes less time to construct than a large one. The runway length will be small, and there will be fewer buildings and other structures.
  • Location of the airport: If it’s located in a remote area, it will take longer to build as you have to create the necessary infrastructure from scratch. This includes building roads to connect the airport to the rest of the world.
  • Weather conditions: Construction work may delay due to bad weather conditions. For example, work on the runway will have to stop if it’s snowing.
  • The experience of the construction company: A company with more experience will complete the construction faster because they have the necessary infrastructure and knowledge from past work.
  • Type of runway: A grass runway can take at least two months, while a modern one requiring base and surface concrete takes more time. 

If you want your project to move faster, you must consider the planning and design stages, which will help you foresee any hurdles beforehand and prepare in advance.

Here’s my video I filmed of our take-off from Manchester with Virgin Atlantic.

What Is the Most Expensive Airport Built?

The most expensive airport ever built is the Dubai International Airport, also called Al Maktoum International Airport, which costs an estimated $82 billion. This massive facility is the busiest airport in the world, handling between 160 and 260 million passengers annually. 

Covering 34,595 acres (14,000 hectares), the airport features two main terminals and a dedicated cargo terminal. It also has a private jet center and six runways, making it one of the most complex and costly airports ever constructed.

Who Owns an Airport?

Airports are most commonly owned by local or national governments because they are critical infrastructure in any country’s economy and transportation system. Sometimes, airports may be privately owned for commercial or personal use. 

For example, most airports in the United States are owned by either the federal government or local municipalities. 

A private commercial airport is always open for private and general aviation but doesn’t facilitate scheduled airline travel. This type of airport is always for personal use and cannot accommodate public aircraft.

Final Thoughts 

If you own an airplane and have a large piece of land, building your airport can save you runway fees and give you the flexibility of planning flights as you wish. However, it’s paramount to consider the cost because constructing one would cause you to break the bank.