In this article we hear from Adam Tull, the 2020 PMAA National Project Professional winner about the success of Brisbane Airport Corporation’s New Parallel Runway.

Over the 2018-2020 period Adam supported the $1.1 billion New Parallel Runway Project as the Project Manager of the Existing Runway 01/19 Rename project (2018) and Operational Readiness & Testing (2019-2020), successfully introducing a program of operational changes that culminated in the establishment of parallel runway operations on 12 July 2020.

See the full list of Project Management Achievement Awards winners

Brisbane Airport Corporation’s New Parallel Runway was a major project some 15 years and $1.1 billion in the making and was constructed over a period of eight years (2012-2020).

The early years were characterised by extensive early works, dredging, and surcharging to prepare the site for subsequent development. The later years saw the key physical elements of an airfield take form; pavements, drainage, the airfield ground lighting system and landscaping. Construction reached its peak in mid-2019, with 650 workers onsite each day.

Operational readiness and testing (ORAT) strategy development

Defining the challenge. By late-2018 it was evident that construction was on-track to achieve the 1 May 2020 practical completion milestone and a strategy to ensure the airport was ready to commence parallel runway operations shortly after practical completion was required. Some very basic but challenging queries presented themselves:

  • What does readiness for parallel runway operations actually mean?
  • How is the scope of ORAT to be defined?
  • Who does ORAT apply to and what are the roles and responsibilities associated with delivering ORAT scope?
New Parallel Runway first departure. (Source: Brisbane Airport Corporation). 

Appreciating the complexity

Adding to the complexity of defining ORAT was the critical role of Airservices Australia, who were also required to deliver new infrastructure including:

  • an expanded Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS); and
  • ​a new Instrument Landing System (ILS).

Separate to the management of their own construction works, the commencement of parallel runway operations represented a major operational change to Airservices air traffic control operations, requiring the introduction of system upgrades, new radio frequencies, training delivery and changes to airspace.

Managing complexity

Whilst the establishment of parallel runway operations was the end-state of ORAT, preceding operational changes were also required. These included the introduction of new airspace, the establishment of a third surface movement control zone and the decommissioning of the cross runway (runway 14/32). Each operational change needed to be carefully introduced into operation with compromising aviation safety or regulatory compliance requirements.

New Parallel Runway AEP exercise. (Source: Brisbane Airport Corporation). 

Planning phase

During the ORAT Planning Phase, the ORAT team mobilised the expertise inherent within Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), Airservices and industry to define the scope of ORAT through Operational Change Appreciation workshops. These workshops applied a consistent method to identify impacts to four defined readiness attributes arising from each operational change:

  • People;
  • ​Processes, Procedures and Publications;
  • Plant, Equipment and Systems; and
  • Operational Conditions (the examination of impacts to aviation safety, security and emergency, the environment and the consideration of interaction with others).

Any impact to one or more of the readiness attributes led to the creation of a readiness task that was then programmed for execution within one of the five work packages. The ORAT team developed a BAC-Airservices program (the Integrated MultiAgency Program) to enable joint agency progress reporting, risk management and decision-making during execution.

Execution, monitoring & control phase

Whilst COVID-19 triggered enforced working-from-home arrangements during the critical March-May 2020 period, the ORAT team had already built the necessary relationships, documentation and control mechanisms to effectively manage stakeholders remotely. During this phase, specific weekly and fortnightly coordination meetings were in place to monitor and control the execution of readiness tasks for the stakeholders most impacted by the operational changes, these being:

  • Airside Operations (BAC)
  • Security & Emergency (BAC)
  • Airport Facilities (BAC)
  • Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting (Airservices); and
  • Air Navigation Services (Airservices).

The most significant impact of COVID-19 during this phase was the cancellation of the June 2020 events program which was to include a 25,000-person open day and an 8,000-person fun run. These community events, along with staff and industry events, were designed to celebrate and promote the arrival of Brisbane’s New Runway after 15 years of effort.

Adjustments to the delivery of training tasks were also necessary due to social distancing considerations, forcing changes to both the scale and nature/ complexity of training and exercises. Separate to ORAT requirements, ongoing business continuity requirements also meant that Airservices and BAC Operations staff had to move to new rostering arrangements.

Adam Tull and his family re-enact the cover of the final Beatles album 1969 Abbey Road prior to the opening of Brisbane Airport’s New Parallel Runway. From left to right, daughters Emily, Stephanie, Natalie, Matilda, Monica, Sophie, wife Tamasin and Adam.


BAC CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff said the completion of the runway was a culmination of eight years of physical construction, many years before that in planning, and foresight from nearly half a century ago for an airport with the growth capacity to meet the aspirations of the city and the state. Mr de Graaff reflected that whilst the milestone marked the end of the project, it represented a new beginning for Brisbane Airport, and a hopeful sign amidst the wide-reaching negative impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s aviation sector.

“This new runway is so much more than asphalt; it is an enabler for recovery and growth across all facets of business, with an estimated 7,800 new jobs created by 2035 and an additional five billion dollars in annual economic benefit to the region. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we have the infrastructure and mechanisms in place to allow our great city and state to recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic, and Brisbane Airport and this new runway will play a strong part in that.”