WONDERBOOM national airport

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During the 1930's, the City Council of Pretoria (CCP) decided to build a landing strip on the farm Wonderboom, approximately 15km north of Pretoria. This was the beginning of Wonderboom Airport and the landing strip was open for air traffic in 1937. Wonderboom Airport became the base for the Pretoria Light Aircraft Company (PLACO) and the Pretoria Flying Club. Although the property belonged to the CCP, PLACO managed the airport.

Between 1937 and 1940, PLACO was responsible for training student pilots for the government and also undertook chartered flights. When the Second World War started in September 1939, the Department of Defense took over the airport and aircraft for military purposes and the PLACO personnel joined the South African Air Force. By 1940, practically all civil aviation training was ceased and military flight training activities were moved from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London to Wonderboom Airport.

During the years of war, pilots for both the Royal Air Force and SA Air Force was trained at Wonderboom Airport because it was far away from the war zone and the pilots could experience ideal weather patterns. This training ended on 8 March 1946.

The Defense Force handed the airport back to the CCP in 1945. After the war, extensive extensions of the airport took place. Except for training, the airport was also used for chartered flights and maintenance of aircraft. Most of these services were managed by PLACO. Mr. Cayasas Modisa, South Africa's first black pilot, received his training at Wonderboom Airport.

The CCP took control of Wonderboom Airport during 1960. In 1965 they extended the runway, built a new terminal building, hangars and workshops and installed landing lights. The first Boeing 737, the Pongola, landed at Wonderboom Airport in 1982. During the 1980's, the airport became the base for one of the biggest parachute clubs in South Africa. The airport became popular with business men due to its excellent restaurant and conference facilities.

During 1993, the airport was once again upgraded to be able to handle bigger aircraft and cargo, which led to the extension of the runway to a length of 1 828m.

In December 1994, with the establishment of the Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council (GPMC), legislation determined that airport operations should be managed by metropolitan councils. As a result, the former GPMC entered into a contractual agreement with the former CCP to manage the Airport's operations on the GPMC's behalf.

A concession agreement was reached with the Pretoria International Airport Corporation (PIAC) in 2000 to manage the airport. This concessionaire was responsible for the activities at the Airport, with the Airport remaining the asset of the former CCP. However, in the late 1990s the Wonderboom Airport's international designation, as an entry point to South Africa was withdrawn, effective as from 1 January 2000.

Towards the end of 2000, the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality (CTMM) was established, which resulted in the ownership of the Airport and the concession agreement was officially cancelled on 30 June 2003. The CTMM then implemented a Contingency Plan for the Wonderboom Airport with the aim of retaking possession of the CTMM's asset.

Last Updated on Monday, 26 October 2009 12:57
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