Breathing ‘life’ into airport

2015-04-30 14:33

THE Pietermaritzburg Airport (Oribi) is getting a massive cash injection for a much-needed facelift.

The Msunduzi Municipality revealed that it plans to invest more than R400 million over the next 30 years.

The money will be invested in the structure, infrastructure and other aviation businesses that will create “life” in the airport.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said they wanted the airport to capitalise on the possible market opportunities presented by its strategic positioning.

The expansion will be carried out in three phases. The first phase started last year.

“We do not want the airport to be just a place where people come to take flights and go home; we want it to be a lifestyle area,” he said.

“We want to capitalise on areas like the Harry Gwala district, Newcastle and others. If someone from Newcastle was going to fly from Durban, they would spend about three hours driving and then one flying.

“A drive from Newcastle to Johannesburg is actually about three hours, so, for someone from Newcastle it’s better for them to drive to Johannesburg. We are just two hours from Newcastle so those people can use this airport,” he said.

Nkosi said over the years the traffic at the airport had grown significantly, justifying the millions being invested.

Among the activities that are planned, he said, were aviation businesses and pilot academies.

The proposal said the first phase, which would last until 2025, had already started. By then, it estimates, the airport should be used by more than 250 000 people per year.

Phase two would be triggered when the demand exceeds 250 000, and phase three would be triggered when the numbers exceed 500 000.

The document proposes the construction of a new apron during the first phase, to expand the current terminal building to cater for increasing passenger numbers at peak hours.

This phase would cost about R150 million.

The second phase would increase the size of the airport, the size of the taxiway and again increase the size of the terminal building to cater for more people during peak hours. This phase would cost about R40 million.

The third phase would improve the infrastructure around the airport and would include the access road and car park area. This would cost around R240 million.

Dr Ray Ngcobo, of the municipality’s Economic Development Services, said one of the innovations that had come up was the creation of a technology hub. “We have been chosen as a pilot site for a technology hub in the province.The land will be divided to create a business area for all the businesses that are involved in the aviation industry. We will invite all the businesses that are part of aviation to be based there.”

Speaking on the possibility of adding other flight routes, he said it depended on demand.

“Previously, we thought of establishing the flight to Cape Town, but there is not enough demand. Even SAA is scaling down on flights to Cape Town.”

He said another idea was to consolidate flights between Ulundi, Richards Bay and PMB. “We thought of feeder flights … there is already a flight from Ulundi to PMB, and we thought of creating a feeder flight that will create one long-haul flight to Cape Town.”

IFP caucus leader Dolo Zondi said they were in full support of the development.

“We are the capital city and it is surprising our airport is so small. We just want the funding of this project to be managed properly.”

DA councillor Rodger Ashe said they were also in full support of the proposal.

“We hope it will bring many positive aspects to the city.”

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