In the present work, a novel packed bed external loop pneumatically agitated airlift bioreactor with an internal gas distributor (perforated plate) between two rolls of packing in the riser was designed and built. This novel approach combines advantages of packed bed and external loop airlift bioreactors. The main objective of this research work was to characterize the hydrodynamic performance of this novel reactor through a non-intrusive flow visualization technique called electrical resistance tomography (ERT). The tomography images, which were generated using a linear back projection algorithm, were employed to explore the effects of different design parameters and operating conditions. These include the effect of the two packing in the riser and the internal gas distributor (perforated plate) installed between the two packing. Other parameters investigated include the effect of sparger configuration, gas flow rate, and liquid height in the bioreactor on the different hydrodynamic parameters such as gas holdup, mixing time, and liquid circulation velocity. Results showed that the gas holdup and mixing time increased in the presence of the gas distributor, while the riser superficial liquid velocity was decreased. Furthermore, gas holdup and mixing time increased, superficial liquid velocity decreased when decreasing liquid height in the reactor, and when using packing or gas distributor between two packings in the riser. These results can be used to improve mixing characteristics in external loop airlift bioreactors for wider range of applications.