Estcourt aerodrome in ruins

2012-08-01 00:00

THE once-vibrant Estcourt aerodrome lies in ruins. The municipality has struggled in vain to maintain it and protect it from vandals, and flying enthusiasts have deserted it in frustration.

The fencing has been stolen, cows are grazing on the runway and local footballers use it as a soccer pitch.

The aerodrome has been stripped to the bone and all that is now left of it is a steel structure that used to be a hangar and a vandalised small plane inside.

Flying enthusiasts blamed the Estcourt Municipality for failing to maintain the facility.

Alan Lentle, chairperson of Estcourt Aero Club, said the vandalism began a while back.

“The fence was removed and now there are animals on the runway, which makes it dangerous to land.”

He said some people from a settlement next to the hangar had vandalised a glider, two small planes and three hangars. “They stripped the hangars and all its covers and used the material to build shacks in the settlement,” said Lentle.

He said more than R300 000 would be needed to rebuild the hangar.

“The vandals also damaged a glider, a small plane worth R60 000 and another worth R200 000. They just destroyed them for the sake of destroying them,” he said, adding that the municipality could have done more to protect the aerodrome.

“The establishment was guarded only during the day. The municipality could have stopped this. They saw it happening and they were informed many times and did nothing,” he said.

Koos Vorster, another flying enthusiast, also blamed the municipality.

He said: “Security and maintenance of the establishment is the responsibility of the municipality.

“The state of the airfield is a great loss because many people who are now flying Boeings learned to fly there.”

The aerodrome once catered to about 40 members of the Estcourt Aero Club, who poured money into the town every weekend in spending on accommodation and purchases. It provided a landing space for visitors, businesspeople and the hospital.

Estcourt municipal manager Nonhlanhla Njoko said the municipality was struggling to maintain the infrastructure at the aerodrome and considering whether to outsource its management.

“We have struggled especially with the vandalism … in the interim, we have beefed up the security there as we are busy dealing with the situation.”

The Civil Aviation Authority was contacted for comment and said it would respond, but had not done so by late last night.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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