Port Elizabeth Airport (IATA: PLZ, ICAO: FAPE), formerly H. F. Verwoerd Airport, is an airport situated in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The airport is owned and operated by the Airports Company South Africa which also operates nine other airports around South Africa.
The airport is located approximately two miles south of the city's central business district. This has earned it the name "Ten minute airport" because it is said to be less than ten minutes' drive from most major areas of the city.
In 2007, the airport served 1,491,551 passengers.
A number of hotels are present on or near the airport. Ground transportation is provided by local taxis. The airport also has a selection of parking areas and several car rental offices.
A highlight in Port Elizabeth's history was the first flight to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town in 1917, made by Major Allister Mackintosh Miller. At that time, this was considered a long distance flight, and it heralded the start of the civil aviation industry in Port Elizabeth. This flight and many more has been captured on canvas by Ron Belling and is on display at the Ron Belling Art Gallery.
Port Elizabeth Airport was established in 1929 in close proximity to the city. It was initially founded by Lieutenant Colonel Miller, who needed an airfield to operate his postal service between the city and Cape Town. It was only officially opened some nine years later, in 1936, boasting a single runway, one hangar and a concrete apron. However, the foundations of this infrastructure will be removed to make room for additional vehicle parking.
During World War II, the airfield was extended to accommodate 42 Air School for the Royal Air Force and 6 Squadron South African Air Force on the southern and eastern sides of the field. Commercial operations were conducted from the northern side. 1954 saw the landing of the first jet-propelled aircraft - five De Havilland Vampire FB9s.
Construction of the permanent terminal buildings, runways and an air traffic control building began in 1950. The commercial operation was moved to an airfield at St Albans, some 25km from the city centre, for the construction period. The new buildings were officially opened in 1955. In 1973 the apron was extended to accommodate larger aircraft and a new departures terminal was opened in 1980. The facilities served the airport community until 2000 when plans for a major terminal upgrade were drawn.
These facilities served the community till 2000 when plans for a major terminal upgrade was drawn-up. The separate arrivals and departures buildings were consolidated into a single facility with a central retail area linking the departures with arrivals creating a light friendly atmosphere. This facility caters for domestic flights but can be screened off to operate a fully compliant International arrivals and departures section.
August 1998 - A South African Airways Boeing 747-400 landed at Port Elizabeth Airport to be officially named 'Ibayhi' the Xhosa word for Port Elizabeth. The aircraft landed with crew and a number of passengers on board and carrying minimal fuel so as to make a safe landing on the 1980m runway.
May 17, 2004 - John Travolta landed his personal Qantas Boeing 707 at the airport directly from Mauritius as he was visiting a nearby private game reserve.
February 1, 2008 - King Abdullah II of Jordan's Airbus A340-200 landed at Port Elizabeth as he makes his way down the Garden Route to Cape Town on a Harley-Davidson motorbike
June, 2010 - South African Airways operated an Airbus A340-200 to Port Elizabeth to help manage the extra volume of people during the Fifa World Cup 2010
The airport has three runways. The main asphalt one 08/26 is 1,980m long, the second asphalt one 17/35 is 1,667m long and the third grass one is 1,160m long. There are also 13 aircraft parking bays on the apron and the terminal building measures 8,700 square metres. The modern terminal upgrade was completed in June 2004 allowing the airport to handle up to 2 million passengers a year.
In preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup runway 08/26 was going to be extended from 1,980m to 3,000m with a view to accommodating International flights, although this never happened.
Airlines and destinations
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The content above was published at Airports-Worldwide.com in 2010.
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