Aviation in and around Cape Town is bouncing back strongly after the Covid lockdown and associated restrictions of travel.

Morningstar Airfield’s well managed growth shows that GA is alive and well in the Western Cape.

SHORTLY BEFORE COVID HIT, Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) was finally ready to start its huge R7 billion runway re-alignment and expansion. This included upgrades to the International and Domestic terminal buildings. Under the Covid-19 pandemic the project was suspended, as was the R3.8 Billion construction of a new 3200-metre runway. Then the Covid-19 pandemic stopped all travel and the plans had to once again be put on hold.

Airline Travel

In pre-Covid operations Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) was the third largest airport in Africa, with almost eleven million passengers a year. The full recovery in passenger numbers is expected to take until, at the earliest, mid-2023, so the pressing need for the planned CTIA expansion has waned – for now.

However, taking advantage of the slowdown, Mr Mark Maclean, Cape Town International Airport’s General Manager, says CTIA has used the Covid period for developing and implementing new procedures and protocols to minimise the risk to passengers in anticipation of the return of international tourists.

The groundwork was laid by Maclean’s predecessor Deon Cloete, who had developed “new end-to-end procedures” in close collaboration with key industry players i.e., non-ACSA airports such as Lanseria, local and international airlines, government and regulatory bodies. Suffice to say there has been a lot of learning with regular updates and tweaking happening along the way. We also leaned heavily on best practices recommended by the likes of IATA, ICAO and ACI.

“We are confident that the new procedures and systems have created the right spaces for safe passenger processing and facilitation. We will keep a beady eye on innovation and new technologies that will further improve the effectiveness of passenger health screening, and we will remain current with similar systems being implemented in many airports around the world.

‘Cape Town has two thriving flying clubs’

These enable us to build our own best practice solutions that will maintain safety standards whilst gradually rebuilding passenger volumes,” Cloete said.

Information technology (IT) will play a key role. “We have upgraded our current CCTV systems and technology. This will be in addition to the current cameras and temperature screening equipment already deployed at all access point into the terminal,” he says.

Tourism

Cape Town is rated as one of the best tourist destinations in the world, and so CTIA’s role has had to grow to match the demand.

The airport was planning for a 90/10 split between international travellers and 90% local travellers. Due to the Cape’s success as a tourist destination, and in attracting new airlines, this mix is now nearer 25% international and 75% domestic. This is largely due to the airport’s ability to attract new airlines and expand the routes it serves.

Cape Air Access Initiative

The world-renowned Cape Air Access Initiative has been instrumental in this success. The 2021 appointment of Ms Wrenelle Stander as CEO of Wesgro should further aid CTIA’s recovery.

Significant wins are being steadily achieved in terms of enticing airlines to operate directly to Cape Town. From the USA, both United Airlines and Delta are now competing to fly direct to CTIA from New York’s Newark and Atlanta respectively. Another recent win is Air Mauritius, which will be using its flagship Airbus A350- 900 to service Cape Town directly from mid- November 2022.

General Aviation

Cape Town International has a dedicated General Aviation area on the airport’s south-western border. This section is home to the airport’s commercial non-scheduled operators, flight schools and the Cape Town Flying Club, as well as various GA maintenance facilities. It has its own refuelling facilities as well as hangarage for light aircraft and flight training schools, but lacks a dedicated GA customs and immigration facility.

Cape Town has become a centre of excellence for helicopters operations across Africa. One such is Ultimax Helicopters, which is featured in this supplement.

A number of helicopter charter companies, such as Cape Town Helicopters and NAC, use the V&A Waterfront, near the city centre, as a base for tourist sightseeing flips around the peninsula and to wine estates and surrounds.

General Aviation Airfields

Since the heydays of general aviation some forty years ago, flying clubs have seen a general decline. It’s great to be able to report that Cape Town has not one but two thriving flying clubs – and the possibility of a third at the new Cape Winelands Airport.

The best-known flying club in the Cape has to be the venerable Stellenbosch club in its sylvan setting below the Hottentots Holland mountains. Despite the encroachment of housing developments and golf course estates, this club is thriving.

But the big action is now to the north, at Morningstar Airfield, about 25 km north of the city on the N7 to Malmsbury.

Morningstar Flying Club was founded over 30 years ago by a bunch of microlight flying enthusiasts and has grown to over 250 members. There are over 100 aircraft based at Morningstar.

The club is showing the fruits of dynamic management in that it has, after lengthy negotiations, finalised a long term lease with the Cape Town City Council. This gives much need stability until 2030, and then has a further ten years notice, effectively giving the members twenty years further title.

This security of tenure and solid management has enabled the club to sell off hangar stands and so raise funds for the key infrastructure. They have a tarred 700m runway and taxiways and pride of place is a large clubhouse with modern kitchens and two flying schools.

This club has done much to spread the love of flying and the option of choosing aviation as a career to many disadvantaged children in the Western Cape.

Stellenbosh Airfield is consistently rated the most beautiful in South Africa.

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