Airports need new names to fit new image

Posted On Wednesday, 06 June 2007 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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R130m upgrades also help 'break from past'

Infrastructure IndustryPlans are afoot to change the names of Bhisho and "Umtata" airports.

Transport MEC Thobile Mhlahlo, speaking at Bhisho Airport on Tuesday where a R100-million upgrade is under way, said it was important to ensure the airports did not "remain in the old order".

"Why have the names changed? Because we have entered a very important stage in the turnaround of the two airports," he said.

Both airports are central to the provincial Transport Department's Blue Skyway Aviation strategy that will see about R130m pumped into their upgrades.

Construction at Bhisho Airport is well under way with about 100 workers from nearby communities employed.

"An application will be lodged with the Eastern Cape Geographic Name Change Committee," Mhlahlo said. "We want the communities to participate in choosing the new names."

The Eastern Cape's two most active airports - East London and Port Elizabeth - will, however, retain their names.

A change will also iron out the confusion over Bhisho Airport's correct name.

It is located far from the provincial capital and situated near the small community of Bulembu. The road sign at the turnoff to the airport reads Bulembu Airport, but its official name, registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, is Bhisho Airport.

"We can call it anything now as the airport isn?t that busy. But let's stick with Bhisho," Mhlahlo responded to questions about the correct name.

Despite criticism from opposition parties over the airport upgrades, Mhlahlo remains adamant that Bhisho airport can become a regional freight transport centre and act as a strategic airport when soccer teams arrive ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

The revamp will include the construction of a road circling the airport, turning the main hangar into an aircraft maintenance area, repairing the fire station, which had its roof blown off, and fencing the entire airport.

"This airport is going to become like a flower and open up many other opportunities," he said.

The first of these opportunities will be pilot-training, with Port Alfred's 43 Air School expanding their advanced aviation training to Bhisho within the next two months. As part of the deal, the air school will rent custom-built offices and lecture halls and an accommodation building for up to 36 students and lecturers.

The Transport Department is also negotiating with the SA Defence Force to use it for pilot training.

Air traffic at Bhisho has already improved after the police air wing moved in last year, boosting plane movements from 13 to 67 a month.

Mhlahlo said they also wanted to meet SAA requirements for direct flights from Johannesburg. But to succeed, the road between King William's Town and Bulembu needed upgrading and the airport needed a licence upgrade for commercial aircraft.

 

Last modified on Saturday, 02 November 2013 11:45

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