African Renaissance Conference  24- 26 May 2018




    The proposed KwaZulu-Natal Aviation Strategy, prepared by the KZN Treasury Crack Team, February 2014, is a response to an appreciation of the benefits of KwaZulu-Natal’s regional airports, as well as recognition of the need to develop the aviation industry in the province.

    There is a growing recognition that regional airports are potentially valuable tools in development, contributing towards sustainable and equitable local economic development, as well as to improved

    transport systems. By growing air services and increasing air connectivity, regional airports can contribute to the more efficient functioning of the private and public sectors by:

    • Providing fast and safe access to regional business, tourist and administrative centres
    • Providing strategic infrastructure for integrated disaster management, emergency medical, security and fire services
    • Supporting and expanding tourism ventures by attracting more tourists, both locally and internationally
    • Supporting agricultural, commercial and industrial development
    • Creating employment opportunities
    Nine Regional Airports

    There are nine regional, or secondary, airports in KwaZulu-Natal owned and operated, under various arrangements, by municipalities. All of the airports offer a general aviation facility but infrastructure

    and services vary greatly. Pietermaritzburg and Richards Bay provide regular scheduled services to OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA), while Margate and Ulundi offer a less regular service, also to ORTIA. Newcastle is in the process of establishing a similar operation.

    In addition, there are approximately 20 landing strips of strategic importance scattered around the Province. For example, airfields at Himeville, Kokstad, Manguzi and Hluhluwe all play a critical role in the delivery of emergency services. The need for a regional aviation strategy arose because many of these municipal airports and landing strips became isolated and neglected, losing connection to national

    and international air routes. The airport authorities acted independently, without cooperation on development

    of infrastructure, air routes, feeder routes, services

    or promotion and advertising. There is no common policy,

    or consensus, on how to promote tourism or associated commercial developments. A long term strategy requires safe access to basic air services, runway extensions and new, or upgraded airstrips. General aviation hangars, fuel facilities

    and navigational aids are urgently needed.

    All municipal airport authorities experienced difficulty in formulating strategies to renew infrastructure,

    access funding, establish air routes and contract air carriers. Management of many of the municipal airports has presented an on-going problem. This is a specialized function because of the need for a high level of safety and security for aircraft and passengers. Municipalities show a lack of understanding of the business constraints faced by aircraft operators. Financially viable operations require high level frequencies and load factors, with aircraft spending as much time as possible flying and not parked at

    an airport.

    KZN Airport Strategy Goals As a consequence the goals of the KZN Airport Strategy include the need to:

    • Upgrade and build new infrastructure ӹӹ Create safe and secure operational airports
    • Build air connectivity
    • Develop vacant land at or adjacent to regional airports
    • Establish opportunities for technological innovation and investment in the local economy
    • Assist in job creation Since 2011/12, The KZN Provincial Treasury has provided approximately R100 million in capital grants for airport upgrades and new infrastructure, namely:
    • Pietermaritzburg: Runway upgrade, extension of terminal and apron, new navigational systems, revised master plan, introduction of an additional scheduled air carrier (SA Express) to ORTIA
    • Richard Bay: New circle and by-pass, new navigational equipment, introduction of an additional scheduled air carrier (SA Airlink) to ORTIA 
    • Ulundi: Runway upgrade and revitalization, new navigational equipment, new fire tender, establishing an air route to ORTIA, Pietermaritzburg and Virginia (Federal Air)
    • Margate: Upgrade of runway and apron, introduction of a scheduled air service to ORTIA (CemAir)
    •  Mkuze: Preparation of documentation and plans for upgrading and developing the airport precinct
    • Newcastle: Assistance in planning upgrade of airport and introduction of an air service to Johannesburg

    There is a growing recognition by key municipal officials that, with assistance, airport problems can be solved. Building Air Connectivity A network of regional airports will provide a service for air route systems

    operated by private air carriers, offering scheduled, shuttle and charter air services, and public  organisations delivering emergency air medical, security and disaster management services.

    Regional airports need to be interconnected and linked to a central hub. The regional airports provide a service to airlines moving passengers and freight within KwaZulu-Natal, and to major hubs such as KSIA and ORTIA. The KZN Aviation Strategy should be an essential part of the KZN Integrated Aerotropolis Strategy. Initially, there may not be sufficient private, passenger or freight, demand for air services between all these airports to support a regular air service. However, in the public

    sector, the KZN Department of Health operates an Emergency Air Support and Doctor Outreach programme based on a set aircraft schedule. This could become a scheduled service foundation for a wider service within a framework of contracts with state enterprises such as the Post Office,

    Telkom, Eskom, DWAF and KZN Tourism needing connectivity to regional centres. Economics will play a role in determining the success of a KZN Aviation Strategy.

    However, The demand for air services not only depends the relative price of an air ticket, personal income levels and preference for different modes of travel but also on the safety, security, reliability, connectivity and time saving associated with air travel. On the supply side, financially sustainable

    operations on regional air routes require the flexibility of much smaller aircraft than conventional low cost carriers. These aircraft operate at higher per passenger cost and may not be able to offer ticket prices

    that meet the expectations of potential air travelers. The right balance must be found between demand and supply.

    Business Opportunities

    Airports create business opportunities that can be exploited to promote local economic development and generate non-aeronautical airport revenue. This includes retail space, parking, rental cars and advertising.

    Municipalities own land at or around local airports. This land is a valuable asset that can be utilized for industrial, agricultural, business and even residential purposes. Land zoned appropriately, and made

    available to the private sector for development will generate substantial funding for the provision of airport revitalization and infrastructure. Development of airport land provides an outstanding opportunity

    to attract potential projects such as innovation and technology hubs, aviation clusters, transport related industries, agricultural processing, aviation education and training centers, manufacture of sports

    goods, hotels and conference facilities.

    KZN Aviation Agency (KZNAA) There is a need for planning activity that stands back from the on-going

    operations and takes a longer term view of growth and coordination of regional aviation. Consequently, the KwaZulu-Natal Aviation Strategy proposes that an umbrella body, the KZN Aviation Agency

    (KZNAA) is formed to take its aims forward. The Agency will be responsible for the preparation and implementation of master plans, dealing with environmental issues, planning and delivering new

    infrastructure, research and forecasting, liaison with air carriers in planning new air networks and feeder routes.

    In order for the vision of the KZN Aviation Strategy to be realised it is necessary to obtain the required “buy in” from all the municipalities, government departments and other aviation stakeholders. Without such cooperation the goal of growing air services and connectivity in the province will not be achieved.