The R7b progress of the new international airport at La Mercy is well on track with about 80% of the project already completed and the air traffic control tower already handed over to Air Traffic and Navigation Services for fit out and systems integration. The Minister of Transport visited the site recently as part of October Transport Month and was very pleased with the progress so far. The event was also graced by the Minister, AU Commissioner, CEO of Airports Company South Africa, Monhla Hlahla; Deputy Minister of Transport of Ghana and other dignitaries and it was held inside the new impressive terminal building. The VIPS got a glimpse of the state of the art infrastructure that the new airport will soon boast.
The road infrastructure linking the main N2 freeway to the airport is tracking well and this crucial aspect should be completed before the airport is ready for operations in May 2010. The progress on the runway and taxiways is still on track.
With this multi billion rand state of the art project being built, there has been many speculations and misunderstanding of certain aspects of the project. These mainly are the future of the current site, name of the new airport and the possibility of running both airports during the world cup event in 2010.
This issue has been widely reported that both Durban and La Mercy will be operating after May 2010. To clarify the issue is that once the new airport is fully operational in May 2010, the current airport will be decommissioned and all aviation business will then be conducted at the new airport.
The current airport once decommissioned as an airport will become a prime piece of property that will be looked at to be disposed off. The disposal of the property will be conducted by the relevant role players including ACSA, Dti, National/Provincial Government and eThekweni Municipality.
FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup the event is being planned to be managed from the new airport and the old airport could be used in case of an emergency and should it be required to park aircraft only during the event.
Comair Interest to buy DIA
It has been reported that Comair Ltd has sent a letter to the Minister on Transport with an interest to buy Durban International Airport and run it as an airport. ACSA maintains that the aviation business will be relocated by May 2010 to the new airport and that the current infrastructure will be sold as property and not for aviation purposes.
Name of the new airport
This issue is now on the critical path as the name of the airport has to be issued so that Civil Aviation regulations can be met in terms of the airport international code, placement of the code and name into aviation manuals and also the road and directional signage that needs to be completed by the end of 2009.
The matter has been tabled through the relevant government structures on the naming of the new airport and is now being reviewed and the findings should be made public by the end of November 2009 via the government structures and procedures.
Operational Relocation and Airport Transfer (ORAT)
The ORAT program is well on track and a team of about 25 work stream leaders are working on the program to make it a reality. The daunting but exciting task of relocating the airport “overnight” to the new site is exactly what is planned. Behind the scenes is a team headed by Bongiwe Pityi (AGM Airport Operations) for ACSA and has a team of local and international consultants assisting her on the ORAT. It will include a “familiarisation and training program that is due to commence in early November and that will be followed by “trail operations and testing” program from January to April 2010, before the airport is finally opened.
The actual plan is that on 30th April the last aircraft will land at DIA and after the passengers have left the airport those aircraft will have to be relocated to the new airport. The equipment and resources will also be relocated for most of that week but certainly overnight of the 30th April. The next day, considering it being a Saturday and operationally quieter, the new airport will commence operations.