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Aircraft Storage and Parking Progam at Upington Airport
Monday, March 02, 2009 | 00:00

Upington International Airport is a strategic air transport facility located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and one of the 10 airports managed and owned by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). 

As it is a known fact that capacity to keep aircraft parked is a world wide problem and with infrastructure capacity in mind, ACSA decided to invest in researching various strategies in an attempt to utilise the extra capacity that Upington has and to increase the commercial revenue stream of the airport.

The strategy of a parking and storage facility of aircraft was decided and seems to be the most realistic initiative to turn the airport into a profit making airport. It is further believed that this project can contribute to being a catalyst for broader and bigger economic growth in the region as well.

One major contributing factor that made this option attractive is that this area, besides having the facilities, enjoys extreme warm dry weather conditions that prevail in Upington and surrounding regions with rainfall and strong winds being very limited.

There are hundreds of aircraft standing in Europe and America to name just a few countries which take up valuable airport space and are in a deteriorating state due to wet weather conditions.  Although these aircraft, are not a lost cause in total as these aircraft can be serviced, painted and made operational to fly in other countries where they can be accommodated, like in Africa.  

The basic requirements for a Parking and storage facility for aircraft are the following:  the runway infrastructure should be able to accommodate the aircraft, general weather conditions, 24 hour security and adequate fire protection services.

Since Upington Airport operates as a Cat 8/9 AFFR conditions and is a commercially driven airport and with the Boeing 747 as design aircraft, it fully meets all the criteria regarding arriving and departing aircraft of all sizes.

Parking will include the planning and execution of a site layout plan to provide for short, medium and long-term parking in such a way that aircraft can be drawn from storage without restriction and problems.  Spacing between aircraft will be sufficient to allow the easy access and manoeuvring of vehicles, aircraft, stairs and fire tenders between aircraft.
Pavement for the parking area is not necessary, but it should be firm to prevent any sagging of aircraft and should enable the movement of aircraft at all times. Although not a requirement, it is recommended to park aircraft with their noses into the prevailing wind at the airport.

With the South African Air Force (SAAF) situated next to the Upington Airport, an agreement was concluded between ACSA/SAAF that will allow the parking of aircraft at the SAAF whilst the airport is busy with a R36mil upgrade project consisting of the rehabilitation of all 3 runways and the refurbishment of 50 hectares of ACSA property that has especially been earmarked for the parking of aircraft.

Advanced services for aircraft storage will include the following:

Aircraft preparation for storage, maintenance during storage, removal from storage and reactivation and record keeping of all activities prior to, during and after storage.

Maintenance of Aircraft :
During the trip undertaken by Esmaralda Barnes, Airport Manager Upington, to the U.S., it became clear that maintenance is a crucial aspect of the total concept of aircraft storage; it is regarded as essential for the facility at Upington Airport to accommodate this service.

Aircraft Sales is also an aspect of aircraft storage:
Aircraft manufacturers have made it clear that it is in no aircraft owner’s interest just to have it stored. It is of prime importance to have the aircraft sold or put back into service, as soon as possible after initial storage.

To facilitate this, accessibility of the storage facility is important. Reservation has been expressed about the distance of South Africa from the main aviation centers of the USA and Europe.  However, the African market might be emerging and for this reason Upington can have potential especially for the older type of aircraft.

At the storage facility, provision must also be made for office accommodation with good communication links and equipment such as photo copiers, computer links etc. for both the aircraft owner’s sales staff and the buyers that normally operate as tears of at least four people.

Storage of aircraft documentation is also an aspect that needs to be considered and provided.  This information will be stored in the belly of the aircraft.

Once an aircraft has been sold, the new owner will usually have it painted in their own colours.  Seating will also be re-configured. Although it is not essential to have this at the storage area, it will certainly help to create a one-stop service facility, something that can be provided at Upington as well as job creation.

As a last resort, aircraft is torn down and recycled.  Aircraft manufacturers maintain that when an aircraft reaches the stage of teardown, that it is an activity that must take place as quickly as possible, and that the whole aircraft should be recycled. Some manufactures are not in favour of stripping aircraft and keeping used spares on a large inventory as this is in direct competition to their OE components.

At both the storage facilities visited in the US, teardown and recycling is being conducted, but the areas are untidy and look like a scrap yard, especially at the facility in Kingman.  It is however, a service that must be provided.


  • Aircraft Manufacturers.
    Boeing and Airbus are the major manufacturers of aircraft.  There is great concern for aircraft parked in unfavourable weather conditions hence interest was shown by both companies to come onboard.
  • ATNS
    SA ATNS controls the airspace in SA and some African Countries.  They are also regulated and have to abide by SACAA Rules and Regulations. 
  • Provincial Government Departments
    The following departments play a vital role at any international airport:
    Dept of Home Affairs
    • Department of Finance:  Customs, Importation of aircraft.
    • Department of Trade, Environmental Affairs & Industry:  Bilateral Agreements, Foreign Operator Permit.   Environmental Impact Study. 
    • Department of Security and Safety:  Border Police, SAPS.

All the departments mentioned above currently operate on a call out basis – they will have to increase their staff compliment and take up permanent office space at the airport. 

  • Upington Ground Handling
    Have limited resources for ramp handling – they will have to upgrade all their services.
  • Contractor Security
    Enhance services.  More staff and equipment.
  • ENGEN Aviation.
    Enhance services and equipment.  Will need to cater for more advanced services i.e. dumping of fuel and the treatment thereof.
  • Siyanda District Municipality
    The district Municipality will have to take cognisance of the increase of   activities around the airport and the associated spin-offs it will create.


This is one of the most exciting projects and fully endorsed by the Provincial Government.

Job creation opportunities once this project is fully completed in all the relevant stages will have an economic impact (positive) on the community.


There were initially 5 aircraft in the parking program and once the Airport has completed all its Environmental Impact Assessments, Stages 2 and 3 can follow suit which could see more aircraft brought into the program. Alitalia Airlines of Italy are currently restructuring and could possibly be liquidation which may result in the termination of some of their routes. This resulted in them looking for a viable option to allow them to park their unused aircraft. At this stage Upington looks like the most viable option and there are already 25 aircraft on site at the SAAF base.


Esmaralda Barnes, Airport Manager: “This has been a very hard and long road that we find ourselves now. It has taken a few years to bring us to this point and we believe that this program will be catalyst for greater economic ventures for the Upington area. We are pleased with the progress of the project and we are already making arrangements for more that 20 aircraft to be part of the program”.

Yvette Schoeman, AGM Operations National Airports: “ACSA always saw the need to strategically position Upington airport as a driver in the region and we knew that since there was not much passenger traffic currently and the near future, the parking and storage program is set to increase air traffic movements. The airport will certainly benefit from the multi million rand upgrade that it is currently going through that will comfortably create capacity for the program and also capacity for possible passenger traffic growth”.

Terence Delomoney, GM Durban and National Airports: This project was in the pipeline for a few years now and it is indeed exciting to finally see the research and planning has finally paid off. In this difficult economic meltdown, it is innovativeness of this nature that really makes the difference to business survival and continuity. We are very proud of the achievements of the Upington team and we are sure that this can only grow from strength to strength.

For more information on ACSA and this project please visit: www.acsa.co.za

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