King Shaka welcomes first plane

An Airbus A340-600 successfully touched down at KwaZulu-Natal's new King Shaka International Airport on Thursday as part of a flight test ahead of its official opening on May 1, said South African Airways (SAA) and the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

Flight SA 3501 landed at the airport, in La Mercy, north of Durban, at 2pm, with SAA and Acsa dignitaries, and the media, on board.

Afterwards, SA Civil Aviation Authority director Colin Jordaan handed over the airport's operating licence to its general manager, Terence Delomoney.

The test was to prove the King Shaka International Airport's state of readiness, said Acsa chief executive officer Monhla Hlahla.

"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," she said.

Two South African National Defence Force Oryx helicopters, a police helicopter and an SAA aircraft will take part in a fly past at the airport before it officially opens for commercial airline activities on Saturday.

SAA chief executive officer Siza Mzimela said the airline would relocate its entire operation from the old Durban International Airport overnight on Friday. The relocation had cost R35-million to date, she said.

Mzimela said SAA's last flights arriving at Durban International Airport would be flights SA 585, SA 579 and SA 581 from Johannesburg and flight SA 626 from Cape Town.

The last SAA flight to leave from the old airport would be SA 582 to Johannesburg.

It would then be handed over to the South African Air Force for use as a military operating base for the 2010 World Cup before being decommissioned.

SAA and Acsa said the first flight from the new airport would be flight SA 528 to Johannesburg at 6.30am.

A free airport shuttle was being made available to passengers whose cars would still be parked at the Durban International Airport when they arrived at the new airport.

SAA and Acsa said the flying time between Johannesburg and Durban would remain unchanged at approximately 50 minutes. The new airport is situated 35km north of the Durban city centre. - Sapa

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