Hangar at AFB Durban back in use after refurbishment

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A refurbished hangar at Air Force Base (AFB) Durban indicates the lone SA Air Force (SAAF) base in KwaZulu-Natal is set to remain on site at what was Durban International Airport for the foreseeable future.

The refurbished hangar was taken back into service by SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, on 24 March, with partner Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) principal project manager Johnny Mokheseng on hand.

TNPA said in a statement the handover made way for the parastatal’s KZN Logistics Hub programme that aims to expand the capacity of the Port of Durban and the Port of Richards Bay. To implement expansion projects, portions of land, including property at the old Durban Airport site, had to be acquired or freed up for precinct development to take place. “It is for this reason the TNPA agreed to refurbish SAAF’s helicopter service hangar,” the parastatal said.

Refurbishment of the hangar, which cost R17 million and created 49 jobs, included existing offices, stores, electrical and mechanical works and replacing leaking roof sheets. The project was managed by COEGA Development Corporation.

“The SAAF has appreciated the impact that the developments at the Port of Durban will have, not only in so far as these will expand the ports and make them globally competitive, but also the ripple effect in altering the economic landscape of eThekwini, the province of KwaZulu Natal and South Africa,” the TNPA said.

Mbambo, according to Ad Astra editor Captain Tebogo August, said it was “pleasing” to see “government institutions coming together to realise goals and objectives for the betterment of the people of South Africa. This is how we display our great sense of patriotism”.

The hangar refurbishment started 13 months ago in February 2022 with a Transnet team and contractors doing refurbishment of the 15 Squadron servicing hangar. Work was done on an overhead crane, hangar doors, roof, pillars and flooring.

“Servicing of aircraft at AFB Durban from this day forward will occur at the correct place, with all the necessary resources. I assure you the work done here will make you proud and will be preserved accordingly as we Free The Eagle,” Mbambo said when he took the facility back into service last week.

Any possible move of Air Force Base Durban away from what was once Louis Botha Airport was given short shrift by Mbambo when he visited AFB Durban in the wake of last year’s floods. He said at the time the “strategy” of the base needed to be rethought and aligned with the Air Force’s vision. “Quantification, expenditure and time allocation for projects, once again, is necessary to restore the base”.

AFB Durban is home to 15 Squadron and its mixed Agusta A109 and Oryx fleet along with maintenance and administrative personnel as well as 508 Squadron providing security.

The lone SAAF Durban base remains the only aviation related occupant of what was once the province’s international airport. The airport was replaced by King Shaka International north of Durban ahead of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.