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Sydney Airport celebrates 100 years and 1 billionth passenger

Donna Coutts, September 8, 2019 4:00PM Kids News

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Sydney Airport's one billionth passenger Katinka Hermens, 10 (centre) cuts a cake with Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert (right) as Singapore Airlines' Philip Goh (left) looks on. Picture: AAP media_cameraSydney Airport's one billionth passenger Katinka Hermens, 10 (centre) cuts a cake with Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert (right) as Singapore Airlines' Philip Goh (left) looks on. Picture: AAP


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A 10-year-old Australian girl has become the one billionth passenger at Sydney Airport, which turns 100 years old this year.

Katinka, from the Blue Mountains, NSW, touched down with her mum and five-year-old brother on the morning of September 5 on a flight from Singapore.

Katinka’s big day was just one of an amazing 100 years of firsts and records for Australia’s busiest and first airport. The way we travel is unrecognisable from 1919, when Nigel Love bought the land for the airport and piloted the first passenger flight.

Katinka’s prize for being the lucky billionth passenger included an upgrade to business class for the flight to Sydney for her family and a gift for her family from the airport and Singapore Airlines of a return flight to anywhere in the Singapore Airlines’ network in the next year, as well as a big hamper of gifts.

media_cameraSydney Airport’s one billionth passenger Katinka, her mother Sara-May Monaghan and brother Andy during a welcome ceremony at Sydney International Airport on September 5. Picture: AAP

It was quite an arrival for the family. They were greeted with a performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and met by Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert.

“It’s an exciting milestone* to celebrate in our centenary* year,” Mr Culbert said.

“One hundred years ago, our first commercial passenger arrived in the back of a two-seat biplane*, landing on a dusty bullock paddock. Today, we’re celebrating our billionth passenger who arrived courtesy* of an A380 carrying nearly 450 people — the progress in aviation* over the past 100 years is incredible.”

Sydney International Airport traffic control tower. Generic Aerial Shots over Sydney City. Photographed from helicopter. Kingsford Smith Airport. media_cameraSydney International Airport traffic control tower and planes in the background.

Although it has taken 100 years to get to one billion passengers, the airport predicts it will reach two billion passengers in just 20 more years.

“Aussies love to fly and it’s clear that people from around the world love to visit Australia,”

Mr Culbert said.

“Air travel has never been easier or more accessible* — our billionth passenger has

probably flown more in her first 10 years than I did in my first 30, and more than my

parent’s generation likely did in their entire lives.

“In 1947 a trip to London required six stops and took 96 hours. Today, 70 per cent of the

world can be reached from Sydney in a single leap, and within five years I’m confident

that will be 100 per cent.”

Aerial view of approach to main North-South runway at Kingsford Smith Airport, Mascot, Sydney, with new third runway on right.        NSW / Aviation / Airports / Runways / Exterior media_cameraAerial view of main North-South runway at Sydney Airport, Sydney. In 100 years, it has developed from a dusty paddock to a huge complex, where 32,000 people work and 44.4 million passengers pass through each year.


  • 44.4 million passengers pass through the airport each year.
  • More than 32,000 people work at the airport across 800 businesses.
  • Flights from this airport go to more than 100 destinations around Australia and the world.
  • There are 344,149 flights a year in and out of Sydney Airport.
media_cameraSir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm in Melbourne in about 1929.

Nigel Love piloted the first passenger flight from Mascot Aerodrome in November 1919.

He set up the first commercial flight from Sydney to Melbourne five months later.

In 1924, the first permanent hanger* was built, with three more built in 1927.

On May 31, 1928, pilots Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm landed the ‘Southern Cross’ in Sydney after the first flight to Australia across the Pacific Ocean. Covering a distance of 11,585km, the flight from Oakland Airport in San Francisco, US, to Eagle Farm Aerodrome in Brisbane, Qld lasted nine days.

media_cameraCharles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith standing on the back of a truck, shaking hands surrounded by a crowd at the end of the first trans-Pacific flight at Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney. Picture: National Library of Australia

In 1936 the airport was named Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport after Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, or “Smithy”.

The jet age began with the arrival of the first Qantas Boeing 707 at Sydney Airport on July 2, 1959.

The first Boeing 747 jumbo jet — Pan Am’s Clipper Flying Cloud — arrived at Sydney Airport on October 4, 1970.

The world’s first A380 commercial flight landed at Sydney Airport from Singapore in October 2007. A380s are the world’s biggest passenger planes.

media_cameraA Qantas Airbus 380 flies over Sydney Harbor. Picture: Qantas


  • milestone: an achievement to notice
  • centenary: 100th anniversary
  • biplane: early plane with two sets of wings, one above the other
  • courtesy: thanks to
  • aviation: to do with flying and planes
  • accessible: able to be accessed by all people
  • hangar: shed for storing planes


New airport named for Nancy-Bird Walton

Schoolboy makes airline deal with Qantas boss

Great air race of 1919 to be recreated

100 years since Qantas was born on long drive

Hypersonic jet to fly New York-London in two hours


  1. What was happening at the airport to greet Katinka?
  2. How many more years will it take to reach two billion passengers?
  3. What does the number 44.4 million relate to?
  4. Who flew the aeroplane called the Southern Cross?
  5. What is the world’s biggest passenger plane?


1. Sydney Airport timeline
Create a timeline showing all of the important dates in Sydney Airport’s 100-year history. Keep the entries on your timeline simple – this may mean you need to simplify the details provided in the article. 

(Hint: If you wish to keep your timeline to scale, glue several pieces of paper end-to-end to make a one-metre strip. Each centimetre on your paper represents one year.)

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; History, Mathematics

2. Extension
The prediction is that the airport will reach 2 billion passengers in the next 20 years. The current yearly passenger number is 44.4 million. Assuming that numbers increase each year, make a table that shows a prediction of how many passengers will pass through in each of the next 20 years to reach a total of 2 billion passengers by the year 2039.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: Englis, Mathematics

The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Where would you like to fly to? Have you been on an aeroplane? Where did you go? What did you like best?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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