PRESIDENT Mugabe will this Friday commission the new look Victoria Falls International Airport whose expansion cost $150 million.
“The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) would like to inform its valued customers and the general public that the Victoria Falls International Airport Development Project is set to be commissioned by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe on Friday the 18th of November 2016,” CAAZ general manager Mr David Chawota said.
The new look airport is a gateway to the mighty Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and has been a flagship project for CAAZ.
Following the upgrading, the airport can now accommodate long haul flights from around the globe.
The completion of the project is a major milestone for the country given the resort town’s potential to transform and steer growth in the country’s economy by attracting more tourists and investors into the country.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development Dexter Nduna, who is also the legislator for Chegutu West, said the commissioning event will be a significant step in the country’s quest to be the regional aviation hub.
Cde Nduna said the Government now needs to install primary and secondary radar systems to direct and manage aircraft in Zimbabwe’s skies.
He said the radar systems would complement the state-of-the-art infrastructure at all the country’s airports. “Now that we now have state-of-the-art infrastructure on our major airports, the Government should now put in place primary and secondary radar systems to direct and manage aircraft in our skies. Between $40 million and $50 million is required to install the radar systems,” he said.
Economists say apart from boosting tourists’ arrivals, the development was in line with the Government’s thrust of transforming the resort town into a Special Economic Zone.
The state-of-the-art Victoria Falls airport’s features include the new international terminal building, a new four kilometres long runway, new control tower and a refurbished domestic terminal with a capacity to handle 1.5 million passengers per annum.
The apron area has a capacity to handle aircraft in the class of the B747 and equivalent. The airport has modern passenger facilities which include; a compatible baggage handling system, Flight Information Display System (FIDS) and Common Use Passenger Processing System (CUPPS) system.
The project has been lauded as a critical enabler by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), whose technocrats visited the country recently.
Dr Abu Sufian Dafalla, who is director for Infrastructure and Logistics Division in Comesa, is on record saying the multi-million dollar facility presents a face for Africa and can be the gateway into the region.
The Government has hinted plans to achieve $5 billion contribution to the economy from the tourism industry alone.
“We have toured the new look airport and it’s smart and environmentally friendly. I think it reflects a future face of Zimbabwe and will definitely be comfortable for visitors to come through it into the region,” he said.
Chinese contractor, China Jiangsu won the tender to carry out the construction work, which China’s Exim Bank funded through a $150 million concessionary loan facility.
In the absence of radar systems Cde Nduna said Zimbabwe was dependent on air traffic controllers and pilots to manage and control aircrafts in the country’s skies.
“At the moment, we are relying on manual, antiquated, archaic and moribund equipment to control aircrafts in the skies. We should applaud our air traffic controllers who have had a thankless job under very difficult conditions but managing and preserving a safety record since 1980, when we attained independence,” he said.
The legislator also said his committee would engage Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo to ensure that complementary state-of-the-art equipment for fire-fighting was installed at Victoria Falls International Airport.