Ready for take-off again at Mthatha airport
Relief as flights set to resume this week
Mthatha Airport will gradually return to normal this week after getting the green light from the national flight safety authority on Friday for its improved security and aerodrome features.
SA Airlink announced that services between Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport and Mthatha Airport would resume from Tuesday, while SA Express’s services would resume on Thursday.
“SA Express will operate a daily service between OR Tambo International and Mthatha airports between Sunday and Friday, with the intention of increasing frequency, in the coming weeks,” said SA Express spokesperson Madikwe Mabotha.
“The flights will depart Johannesburg at 3pm arriving at Mthatha Airport at 4.40pm, with the return flights departing at 5.10pm, landing at OR Tambo at 6.40pm. The airline will operate a 50-seater regional jet CRJ 200 on the route.”
SA Airlink marketing manager Karen Murray said the airline would provide early morning and late afternoon return flights using one of its Embraer 135 aircraft, a 37-seater regional jet, Monday to Friday.
“An early morning flight will operate on Saturdays and an afternoon flight on Sundays.
“Additional flights will be added to the schedule as the route returns to normality.”
The reopening of the airport’s operations followed a public outcry, especially from the local business community, after flight operations at the facility were closed on January 25.
This forced the Eastern Cape government to take immediate action to rectify the problems.
The airport was downgraded to category 3 by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), which cited shortcomings in the rescue and firefighting services and the aerodrome emergency management system.
Large passenger jets – and even smaller aircraft – were barred from landing and departing at the airport until the problems were sorted out.
To the relief of all, the aviation authority on Friday reinstated the airport’s category 4 status and restored all its operating rights with immediate effect.
The 2018-19 transport budget saw R50m set aside for the airport. Taxpayers have pumped more than R700m into the airport since 2013.
Renovations in 2017 included the construction of a R250m 3km runway to accommodate larger aircraft.
Provincial government spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said the decision by the aviation authority to upgrade Mthatha airport followed on the Eastern Cape provincial cabinet’s undertaking a fortnight ago to provide the necessary support to the provincial transport department and ensure adherence to all outstanding non-compliance matters cited by the national aviation regulator.
He said SACAA’s civil aviation director Poppy Khoza had stated that she was satisfied with the corrective measures that had been put in place...