SEA – International Arrival Facility and Aerial Walkway Construction

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After years and months of construction and preparation, the new aerial walkway across the taxilane is taking shape. The centerpiece was moved from its construction and storage area on the night of January 24. Gigantic, remote-controlled transporters lifted and moved the centerpiece down the center runway during the night. The centerpiece weighs 1,565 tons and has a length of 320 feet. It took the whole night to transport the section down to its installation location between the South Satellite Building and the new pier at the Internationals Arrival Facility.

The move of that piece was no light undertaking, especially when it rains during transport and most of the time the teams need to lift and install it. This was more than a challenging move for everyone.

Now the centerpiece of the new aerial walkway is in place and construction will continue to complete the whole structure. During the installation of the centerpiece of the aerial walkway, the taxi lane beneath it was closed to all aircraft traffic. Construction workers and welders were working non-stop and 24 hours a day to get the centerpiece fixed in place. Now, after about 1.5 weeks the taxi lane beneath it is open again.

Once completed it will be the world’s longest structure over an active taxi lane (780-foot walkway). However, it won’t be the tallest one in the world. The tallest bridge is in Gatwick, UK. Their bridge has about 105 feet of clearance at the highest point, where Sea-Tac’s only has 85 feet.

Here some more impressive numbers for all the number lovers:

  • 320-foot long center span
  • 85-foot vertical clearance
  • 610-foot clear span
  • 780-foot length of the complete structure
  • 191-foot escalator with a 79-foot rise (This puts the escalator under the Top 10 longest in the United States)
Size Comparison (Courtesy of Port of Seattle)

Once completed the new aerial walkway will get arriving passengers from international flights, which have to clear customs and immigration in Seattle, to the new International Arrivals Facility.

Passengers will get a great view of Mount Rainier and the airport from this aerial walkway. It will be a new unique feature of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which you can’t find anywhere else.

Plane Spotting

Now if you think of going plane spotting from the aerial walkway or watching Mount Rainier, you are out of luck. This walkway is only open to international arriving passengers from the South Satellite Building. To actually get up there, you will have to arrive on an international flight which has to clear customs and immigration here in Seattle. So you will be out of luck if you fly just up to Vancouver B.C., and back, as you will clear customs and immigration already in Vancouver.

I will look for a convenient international connection, which would allow me to get onto the aerial walkway with time to spare for photos. Many flights arrive at night and you want to rush to customs and immigration to not get stuck in a long line of passengers waiting for passport control.

Other airports with similar bridges, like Gatwick, UK, and Denver, CO, allow you to move freely back and forth over their aerial walkways,

The grand opening of the aerial walkway and the International Arrivals Facility is expected to be later this year.

Airport Photos

Below are some additional pictures from the airport while photographing the construction process. A very unique view.

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