Bhisho airport set for R100m upgrade

Bhisho Airport is undergoing a massive upgrading process at a cost of R100 million to enable international flights to land.

Bhisho Airport is undergoing a massive upgrading process at a cost of R100 million to enable international flights to land.

As a result, the runway of the airport will be closed for six weeks for receiving flights, starting today.

"The upgrading process is expected to be completed by March 2008," said safety, liaison, roads and transport MEC Thobile Mhlahlo.

Mhlahlo visited the airport last week to assess the progress of the upgrade, which will also make it possible for international flights to land during the 2010 World Cup.

It will ease the pressure on Port Elizabeth Airport in the Nelson Mandela Metro that will host both Confederations Cup and World Cup matches.

"Port Alfred-based 43 Air School has signed a declaration with the department of roads and transport for its expansion to the Bhisho Airport [terminals] and has started assisting in recommissioning refuelling facilities for the airport," said Mhlahlo.

He said the airport upgrade had already created jobs for 100 people from the villages around the airport, "and there will be more workers needed as the project progresses".

"Air BP has started with the revamping of the fuel depot at their costs. Aircraft movements have already improved from 13 movements per month before October 2006 to 67 and this will steadily increase as fuel becomes available.

"The control tower has been stripped and new painting and renovations are taking place. The terminal building for 43 Air School offices is nearing completion, which is expected in the next two months," said Mhlahlo.

"A new security road is being constructed with a new security fence.

"A fire tender worth R5 million was delivered on May 20 from overseas and firemen have completed training.

"The intention is to increase the emergency capacity and improve its grades from two to four. Currently, we have paid invoices to the value of R23 million."

South African Airways has expressed its interest at the Bhisho Airport and more airlines are coming forward with proposals.

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