It appears the relocation of Pietermaritzburg Airport from Oribi will take longer than expected.
Although uMgungundlovu District Municipality has announced plans to find a new airport site, the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has said there are many processes the municipality will have to follow before it gets approval to relocate the airport.
SACAA spokesperson Mpume Motaung said the authority had not yet received a relocation application from either uMgungundlovu or Msunduzi.
Motaung said the following will need to be considered before the approval of such an application:
• Full particulars of the area demarcated for the proposed new airport;
• Written approval from the local government concerned;
• A feasibility study and an environmental impact study;
• Written approval from all interested government institutions; and
• Proof of funding for the development of the aerodrome.
“Although proof of funding is required, the emphasis is on safety. The purpose of proof of funding is to act as a first line of screening prospective aerodrome developers and to ensure that a particular area is not tied down for a given period by developers with insufficient funding,” she said.
In an interview with The Witness, uMgungundlovu District municipal manager Ray Ngcobo said a search for the new site had already begun.
Ngcobo said he would be driving the search, saying the current airport site in Oribi had physical limitations that led to scheduled flights sometimes failing to land in bad weather conditions.
“This one is not located well. They always say Pietermaritzburg is a sleepy hollow. You cannot land on misty days and that is very disruptive to business people.
“The other day I was on a flight with a number of prominent people. We could not land, so the flight kept on going around for an hour because of bad weather.
“We have to find a new airport site that will be physically appropriate,” he said.
The airport has been dogged by bad publicity lately.
A report tabled at an Msunduzi executive committee meeting recently revealed overall safety at the airport had been compromised by the appointment of non-aviation trained contractors and the use of inferior materials to maintain the airport.
The report also revealed that the airport had been operating in contravention of certain aviation guidelines, having failed to submit its operations manual to the SACAA.
Under pressure, the municipality did eventually submit the manuals this year.
The city manager said the new airport site should be able to cater for anticipated growth in passenger and cargo volumes.
“I have already been advised strongly by the political leadership to find a site first and then I will go to government to say this is the site and this is how much it will cost.
“I will then move to aviation related issues at a later stage.
“What becomes of this site, provincial government will decide at that time. It will be a site that is well located,” he said.