Mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba and the council officially opened Newcastle airport, which is strategically poised as a gateway between Johannesburg and Durban. Picture: Supplied
Durban - THE long-awaited Newcastle airport upgrade was finally completed this week, but commercial flights will only take off in about two months’ time.

The airport in the north-west of KwaZulu-Natal has been used privately for charter services and in 2016 the municipality began upgrades and renovations. However, the project was marred by lengthy delays.

This week a special flight from Johannesburg landed at the Newcastle airport carrying delegates including Mayor Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba and municipal officials. The municipality’s director for development planning, Vish Govender, said the idea behind the development of the airport was to shorten the journey for travellers and because Newcastle was centred between Durban and Johannesburg.

Govender said Newcastle boasted major industries and was a stone’s throw from renowned battlefields and the Drakensberg. He said flights would take 35 minutes to and from Johannesburg and Durban.

“Our feasibility study showed that our target market would be our ratepayers within our community, professionals such as doctors, lawyers, business people who often travel to Johannesburg and Durban and we would also target government people from Pretoria.

“Instead of driving three hours to get to Newcastle, they must leave their cars and fly to get here,” said Govender.

He said the project received a cash injection of R36million from the EU and R5m from the municipality. Siphelele Buthelezi