in Features / Airports

New Copperbelt airport set to shine

Posted 17 November 2017 · Add Comment

Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL) has begun construction of the $397 million Copperbelt International Airport. Humphrey Nkonde reports.

Zambia’s new aerodrome is 13km west of Ndola, the headquarters of the Copperbelt Province, the country’s major mining region.
It is close to the spot where the second United Nations Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in a plane crash in September 1961 as he tried to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The $397 million being used to construct the ultra-modern airport is a loan obtained from China’s Export and Import (Exim) Bank.
Chinese company, AVIC International, was hired to design the airport and it has also been contracted to build the facility.
Over the years, the Copperbelt has attracted large-scale investments in various sectors, including the agro-based Global Industries, which has built a $40 million multi-oil-seed-crushing plant, and the Chinese-led Chambishi multi-facility economic zone. The economic zone is connected to Zambia’s cobalt and copper mining and it is expected to boost exports from the Copperbelt.
There are also some tourist attractions on the Copperbelt, including Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Orphanage in Chingola, the Dag Hammarskjöld crash site, and Nsobe Game Reserve in Ndola, which can contribute to the development of the aviation industry.
The new airport’s design includes a 12,000sqm terminal building with a capacity of one million passengers, a 28-metre-high control tower, a fire station, aircraft hangar, 3.5km runway and a 50-room hotel.
The class E runway will be able to accommodate large aircraft such as Boeing 747/777, Airbus 350 and MD 11.
President Edgar Lungu officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony on June 25, during which time he unveiled the airport’s foundation stone.
It is the first time in 50 years that Zambia will be developing a large airport – Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, formerly Lusaka International Airport, was built in 1967.
Copperbelt International Airport will replace Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, formerly Ndola International Airport. This started as a military base for the British colonial government in 1938 and was converted to a civilian aerodrome in 1958.
Over the years, residential houses have been developed around the site and, as a result, 2.5km parallel runways cannot be extended to accommodate the latest wide-body planes that require longer landing strips.
There is, equally, no space at the old airport where a modern terminal building and other structures can be constructed.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has approved construction of the new airport and said it would ensure that the facility meets international standards.
It will be the first time that the CAA, which was established in 2012 with financial and technical assistance from the European Union, will oversee construction of an airport.
CAA director general, Gabriel Lesa, said the new airport would enhance the institution’s aviation oversight, adding that it would be constructed to international standards and would also contribute positively to the relevance of Lusaka’s Zambia Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI) in the provision of manpower.
“ZASTI will be required to train pilots and other aviation professionals, who would be required to manage the new airport,” Lesa explained.
ZACL showcased impressions of the new airport during the Zambia International Trade Fair in Ndola from June 29 to July 4 and they were also shown to President Lungu during the ground-breaking ceremony.
Unlike old airports developed as strictly landing facilities, the Copperbelt International Airport has incorporated into its design a 50-room hotel, from which it will generate income outside aeronautical services.
ZACL managing director, Robinson Misitala, said during the trade fair that his institution’s vision was to increase non-aeronautical revenue from 10% to 30% from international airports.
Those in operation run by ZACL include Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in Ndola, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula in Livingstone, and Mfuwe, near South Luangwa Game Park, in Mambwe.
Misitala said that while the hotel at the new air airport would be owned by ZACL, the intention was to have it leased to a competent operator in the hospitality industry.
The ZACL managing director said the airport would a have a category 10 fire station, compared to category eight at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport.
Thousands of show-goers had the opportunity to view the impressions of the Copperbelt International Airport from the ZACL stand.
ZACL won the best innovation prize among state enterprises during the trade fair and the trophy was presented by Commerce and Trade Minister, Margaret Mwanakatwe.
There is justification for Ndola to have a new airport going by the growing numbers of both local and international passengers being handled by Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport.
In 2004, both local and international passenger numbers at the old airport were below 50,000, although the aggregate was slightly above that figure, according to ZACL statistics.
The aggregate figure for both local and international passengers shot above 200,000 in 2013, representing an increase of 300% in slightly less than 10 years.
It was only in 2016 that the aggregate number of both local and international passengers fell slightly below 250,000.
As the new airport will have a capacity for one million passengers, its actual throughput is expected to be about 25%, if statistics for Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport are taken into consideration.
A novel aspect is that the Copperbelt International Airport would incorporate freight transport, an operation that is not part of Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport.
According to projected statistics released by ZACL, Copperbelt International Airport is expected to handle 8,000 tonnes of cargo per annum.
Cargo planes from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world will be capable of landing owing to the category E runaway.
From 2007 to date, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport has been handling an average of between 8,000 and 10,000 domestic and international planes.
It has been estimated that the Copperbelt International Airport will have 20,000 take-offs per year.
There is no doubt that Zambia needs modern airports to stimulate the aviation industry, which collapsed after Zambia Airways was liquidated in 1994.
As a result of that liquidation, ZASTI could not train commercial pilots, something that the government, through the CAA, intends to reverse.
The Zambian Government has indicated that it would revive a national airline, especially after the European Union lifted the ban on aircraft originating from there from landing in the Eurozone.
However, ZACL has to work hard to attract more airlines to the Copperbelt International Airport so that it serves several local and foreign passengers.
This is the only way the 75% spare capacity of the one million passenger terminal building would fully be utilised.
It would also be the only way that ZACL would have a good return on investment so that it pays back the $397 million loan it obtained from China to have the Copperbelt International Airport constructed.

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