King Shaka International Airport Takes Off Today

King Shaka International, KwaZulu-Natal's new airport, is all set for take-off on Saturday, 1 May 2010 - forty years after the idea was first conceived.

To ensure the readiness of the new airport, located in La Mercy, approximately 35 kilometers north of Durban's city centre, and to check that all systems were in place, the first historic flight was taken on Thursday with South African Airways (SAA) crew, dignitaries and media departed at OR Tambo International Airport and touched down at King Shaka International.

"The purpose was to test our airfield infrastructure such as instrument landing systems, communication with air traffic control, passenger loading bridges, aircraft fuelling systems, aircraft push back and start up operations. We are very pleased with the support we received from all our stakeholders in particular SAA," said Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) chief executive officer Monhla Hlahla.

Captain John Herselman was the pilot in command of the test flight while the South African Civil Aviation Authority's Director of Civil Aviation, Colin Jordaan, handed over the operating license for the new airport to its general manager Terence Delomoney.

Currently, SAA operates 109 return flights per week between Johannesburg and Durban. Today will see SAA relocating its 250 staff compliment at Durban international to the new airport at a cost of about R 35 million.

Meanwhile, the final flight to depart from the old airport today is flight SA582 to Johannesburg while the first SAA flight to leave from the new airport will depart at 6.30 am tomorrow.

The Durban International Airport will first be handed over to the SA Air Force to use as a military operating base for the 2010 World Cup after which it will then be decommissioned as an airport.

Passengers who have left their cars at Durban International but who will be arriving at the new airport will be able to take the free airport shuttle back to the old airport to collect their cars.

The King Shaka International hotline number 08611 777 11 has been set up to help with customer queries relating to the move. -BuaNews