Operators at Virginia Airport hopeful of getting five-year lease

2013-09-13 00:00

OPERATORS at Virginia Airport in Durban are hopeful that they will be granted its five-year lease in October after threatening the council with legal action.

While the initial lease for a 10-year period was expected to be given to the airport in February, the new lease may only be for a five-year period, as intense negotiations about the future of the airport’s location continue.

Leading the charge on behalf of the operators, which vary from flight schools to helicopter operational centres for anti-hijacking firms such as Netstar, Daryl Mann said getting the lease will allow operators to have security of tenure and reinvest in their businesses.

“Over the past 40 years and respective council leadership, the future of Virginia Airport has always been under threat. I spoke to the council on Tuesday, where I was given assurances that our lease will be awarded. This is the third such time promises have been made, and while I feel confident they will honour their word, I cannot guarantee it,” said Mann.

The airport handles approximately 450 chartered landings and take-offs a month, while there are over 1 800 landings and take-offs by private individuals, which includes flight school training.

“There is no better place for this airport and there will be extreme difficulty in finding a new location within the Durban area,” said Mann.

If the airport is successful in obtaining its lease, it is eligible for a R50 million grant from the KZN Treasury, which has given similar grants to airports in Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi.

He said much of the anxiety surrounding the airport’s location centres around the possible development of the prime beachfront land.

The operators have decided, said Mann, to persevere with legal action if the lease is not awarded and thereby force the council, through the courts, to honour its word.

The airport is used by President Jacob Zuma when travelling by helicopter, and the SAPS for refueling and emergency services due to the easy access for ambulances. Last Friday, the Johannesburg-based media and mining mogul Gupta family, who famously landed a jet at Waterkloof Military Base earlier this year, are believed to have also used the airport.

An eThekwini metro document focusing on the city’s economic growth, released in February, has outlined four options for the airport’s future. They are that the airport relocates to King Shaka International Airport; operators should move to Pietermaritzburg or similar smaller airports; the airport remains or it moves to the Durban International Airport site in South Durban. Currently about 200 people are employed at the airport.

The municipality was unable to confirm at the time of going to press whether they had agreed to renew the lease.

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