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China’s oldest airport set to close as Beijing prepares to open world’s biggest air hub

China’s oldest airport, which opened in 1910 during the reign of the Qing Dynasty, is about to close as the Beijing Daxing International Airport, the world’s biggest air hub, is set to open its doors.

The new airport, which cost 80 billion yuan ($11.3 billion) and took five years to build, will feature a spectacular starfish-shaped terminal. The building is expected to be the world’s largest terminal as it covers an area of 700,000 square meters. The entire Daxing International Airport covers around 47 square kilometers, with four runways and 268 airplane parking bays.

The enormous new airport, situated 46 kilometers south of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, is preparing to handle 45 million passengers annually by 2021, and 72 million by 2025. It has ambitious expansion plans, as the site is expected to increase its capacity to 100 million travelers by 2040.

The airport’s opening is scheduled for September 30, the day before the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, which China will mark on October 1.

Daxing will become the second international airport in the Chinese capital after Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA). The latter is currently the second busiest airport in the world and serves as the city’s main aviation hub, but it is already full.

As Daxing is expected to ease the pressure on the Capital Airport, Beijing will no longer need its small military-civilian airport called Nanyuan, which means “southern garden” in Chinese. The transport hub was opened in 1910 during the Qing Dynasty, making it the oldest in China.

Nanyuan has long served as both a military and commercial airport. Last year, it handled 6.5 million passenger trips, which is “just a drop in the ocean” compared to the capital’s giant airport, according to Li Peibin, senior manager of China United Airlines’ marketing department, cited by China Daily.

While the fate of the aviation hub is unclear, it could literally become history as the site may be turned into a museum.

“Compared with the Capital Airport and Daxing Airport, Nanyuan has a rich and special history with numerous fascinating stories to offer to the public as the first airport in China, making it the perfect site for a civil aviation-themed museum,” said Ma Huidi, director of the Center for China Leisure Studies at the China Academy of Art.

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