Aerotropolis taking shape

2015-07-27 09:18

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THE provincial government is exploring the possibility of establishing an aeronautical institute in a bid to boost the province’s aviation industry.

A document seen by The Witness and titled “The Concept Plan for establishing the KZN Aerotropolis Institute” outlines a possible future where the province could be the leading destination for any training in the aeronautical industry.

The bold concept is expected to form part of what will be known as the Durban Aerotropolis centred around King Shaka International Airport.

The document, now in its fourth draft, has been circulating since January between multiple national and provincial government agencies including eThekwini Metro and the Msunduzi Municipality in a bid to aid a process of developing a “conceptual framework of the Aerotropolis Institute with a view to develop a feasibility and business plan”.

Who will manage the institute has not yet been decided, but it is likely it could be a local institution such as the University of KZN, Durban University of Technology, the University of Zululand or all of them. It will initially be funded for three years by the provincial government, thereafter it is expected to become self-sustainable.

And earlier this month the KZN Department of Economic Affairs, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) advertised for an “Expression of Interest” from universities to help develop the framework and business plan.

While no time frames are given, the document does state that the Aerotropolis Institute must generate “useable knowledge” that can be used in real-world “decision-making, actions, and operational support”.
Cosmas Hamadziripi, an economist, who is spearheading the project for EDTEA said the feasiblility study and a business plan is hoped to be completed in the new year.

“The long-term plan is to have an extension of the facility within the airport precinct. In the short term we want it to be housed within a university premises until the provincial government has invested in the infrastructure needed,” said Hamadziripi.

He said they expect the accreditation of courses, many of which aren’t offered in this country, could take up to three years and they will be “benchmarked” with global institutions while short-term courses will be offered sooner.

“Umgungundlovu is envisaged to be a part of the footprint of Durban Aerotropolis but the infrastructure will need to be in place that allows for travel times to be consistently within one hour,” said Hamadziripi.

The report said the institute’s research outputs are expected to be used to improve planning and development of future Aerotropoli in South Africa and the continent.

“Given this broader mandate, the name of the Institute might have to be Africa Aerotropolis Institute or Aerotropolis Institute Africa,” said the document.

The document said the primary objective of the institute will be the education and training of the “KZN labour force to meet the skills demands” for the Durban Aerotropolis while its secondary objective would be to develop a “knowledge economy around Aerotropolis” by positioning the institute as the “only one of its kind”.

The courses to be offered are as broad as aeronautical engineering, aviation security, accident investigators, pilots as well as air traffic forecasting and modelling.

The document said currently there are only a handful of organisations globally that offer courses related to airports but “none of these institutions combine aviation related and customised courses” as envisaged in the institute.

“This is the essence of an aerotropolis development intervention. In order to develop very strong and viable Aerotropoli, airport authorities managing airports will need to attract and retain highly skilled labour.”
What is an aerotropolis?

The Durban Aerotropolis is expected to be the central pillar of the province’s aviation industry.
An aerotropolis is an airport city, which operates as a central business district.

The KZN Integrated Aerotropolis Strategy was approved by the KZN Executive Council in October 2014.

The area envisaged will include an area that covers a one hour drive from the King Shaka International Airport terminal which includes eThekwini Metro, some parts of Ilembe, Umungundlovu and Ugu district municipalities.

Value to investors is that an aerotropolis offers businesses speedy connectivity to their suppliers, customers, and enterprise partners, nationally and worldwide.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  aeroplane

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