King Shaka ‘no’ to Virginia

2014-09-01 00:00

THE national airport operator does not want to absorb Durban’s Virginia Airport, a study has found.

The Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) — which operates the country’s major airports including King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) — believed absorbing Virginia would be “incompatible” with the airport’s future plans.

This comes after The Witness revealed last week that the Durban North-based municipal airport would be relocated to Scott­burgh — 70 km south of Durban — in favour of redeveloping the land sitting on prime coastal real estate.

But businesses at Virginia Airport — including charter and flight schools — said they would prefer moving to KSIA if they had the option because it was closer. Sources within the aviation industry revealed that Acsa’s position would have guided the city towards selecting the south coast town as opposed to KSIA.

Acsa’s position was made clear in a yet to be released master plan for KSIA leaked to The Witness. The plan, which deals predominately with the potential for business aviation at the aerodrome said even if a second runway was built it would not guarantee Virginia’s 4 500 flights a month long-term security.

“The second runway would only provide a short-term option for the training school operations as the incompatibility in use would become an issue as soon as the traffic density at the airport requires expansion of scheduled traffic to the second runway.”

Chief among its concerns was the “inexperience of trainee pilots,” the increased “probability of aircraft incidents” disrupting flights and increased financial liability.

“The training and aviation schools as well as recreational operations at Virginia are considered incompatible with the operations at KSIA.”

But the report stated Virginia Airport might remain open for at least another decade due to the massive cost constraints of building a new municipal airport.

Citing official documents the report reiterated that Virginia Airport could not be expanded because of space constraints and that while there was a possibility of constructing a new airport within the metro it “may not prove to be financially or even technically viable”. It said the “time required to develop a greenfield airport” may take longer than the “indicated 10 years extension project”.

A well-placed aviation source not authorised to speak to the media said Virginia Airport operators have been aware of a relocation for several years.

“They have also known the position of Acsa, who have consistently said they do not want to accommodate private aeroplanes or flight schools and would only absorb certain charter flights that use specific aircraft,” said the source.

The source said the municipality would have taken all of this into account before deciding on how to relocate the airport.

The municipality — when asked to comment — said they would make further details available at the next executive council meeting.

The future off Virginia Airport staying in Durban airspace is minimal according to a leaked report.

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