Windhoek — THE upgrading of Walvis Bay's airport is expected to be completed by the middle of next year, when it will be inaugurated as Namibia's second international airport - after Windhoek's Hosea Kutako International.
The upgrading is part of a project called the Rehabilitation and Upgrading of Airports and Air Traffic Control Systems.
It also includes the refurbishment of control towers at all Namibia's main airports, namely Hosea Kutako International, Eros, Walvis Bay and Luederitz airport.
The N$320 million runway project for Walvis Bay, which is sponsored by the Spanish government, is expected to be completed by March.
This project includes the extension of the existing runway, which is 2 134 m long and 30 m wide, to a total length of 3 440 metres and width of 60 metres to allow large cargo and passenger planes to land and take off from there, airport sources initially told The Namibian.
The single apron on the current runway will be replaced by wide-bodied aprons for large cargo and passenger craft to park on.
A media release by the Ministry of Works and Transport emphasises that the upgrading project will include air-traffic control technology and a modern lighting system.
Provision will also be made for rescue vehicles, which have already been provided.
A new access road and the airport's perimeter fence are nearly completed, while the top layers of the runways are being worked on.
According to the release, an added advantage of the airport would be that it is at sea level and would therefore require less fuel for take-off at maximum payload.
Timing off One of the challenges though is that while the upgrade is expected to be completed by mid-2008, construction work to enlarge the existing terminal still has to start.
The latter project is expected to take up to two years and therefore there may be a one- to two-year overlap where the new runway will be used by large planes, but the terminal will struggle to handle the higher numbers of passengers.
The current terminal can hardly accommodate 200 passengers at a time, according to airport sources.
The new one would have to handle up to 400 at a time.
The terminal project will run separate from the runway upgrade.
It is expected that the new terminal will be three times the size of the current one.
Work on this is only expected to start next year and could take up to two years.