Saab South Africa underpins new King Shaka airport


The R7.2 billion King Shaka International Airport (KSIA), opened ten days ago, runs on Saab South Africa-supplied state of the art local and international safety, communications, navigation and air traffic control systems worth R25 million.

Saab SA’s Security and Aviation Systems business unit won the tender to keep safe passengers and aircraft at the country’s newest airport, outside Durban and spent several months manufacturing, installing, and commissioning as well as integrating equipment made by Saab in SA with the best from international manufacturers.
“Saab was selected as contractor to the Ilembe consortium which built the airport, the Air Traffic and Navigation Service (ATNS), and the Airports Company SA (ACSA) and I am very pleased to say that we delivered on time and on budget,” says Saab Security and Aviation Systems MD Sisa Tanda. “The SA Civil Aviation Authority, ACSA and ATNS have been involved in the commissioning of the equipment, and have certified it compliant in every aspect. We are proud to be associated with this flagship infrastructure project in our country.”

Among the equipment installed are two category two instrument landing systems, which allows passenger jets to land in poor weather and at very low visibility, Saab SA says in a statement. Making takeoff, landing, and flying conditions more predictable – and therefore safer – are a range of additional aids. These include the DAID system, which provides real time readiness pictures of all systems to the air traffic controllers, and a range of aids capable of keeping pilots informed of the exact speeds and direction of wind, humidity, approaching thunderstorms, and other weather factors prevailing at the moment of takeoff, approach, or landing.

The VHF radio equipment linking both tower and approach controllers with pilots, including remote transmitter sites, are equally part of the Saab Security and Aviation Systems package. To ensure that pilots and air traffic controllers are able to be in touch at all times, the communications systems includes not only a complete standby system for backup, but an entirely independent third emergency system able to operate even if the other systems were to go down, Saab SA adds.

A recording and playback system ensures that all communications between air traffic controllers and pilots as well as all telephone traffic from the controllers are recorded on an ongoing basis, alongside the prevailing radar picture. Recordings can be made continuously for two weeks, but are backed up on a daily basis.

Speaking at the official opening of the airport this Saturday, President Jacob Zuma praised Ilembe, saying that not only was the construction of the project completed in the record time of three years but it also involved the re-location of both the cargo and passenger businesses from the old airport to the new facility in just one night. “This smooth, seamless transition must surely bear testimony once again to the skills and capability we have as a country. We are setting new global standards in the delivery of large scale infrastructure projects,” Zuma said. “We must congratulate our country for such expertise and we must not be shy to boast about it.”

KSIA is the first new airport in the past 50 years in South Africa. It is named after the Zulu chief Shaka, a famous warrior who ruled the powerful Zulu kingdom in the early 1800s, Reuters reported. ACSA says the airport will contribute to the creation of between 165 000 and 260 000 direct and indirect jobs in the next 20 years. The new airport will be able to process 7.5 million passengers and 50 000 tons of manufactured goods per year. The facility was first conceptualised in the 1970s, with construction beginning in 1973. By 1975, earthworks and a storm drainage system had been completed. However, the project was halted in 1982 due to the economic slowdown at the time.

The wikipedia says the project was revived in the late 1990s when “the limitations of Durban International Airport became apparent”. It says the old airport’s 2400m runway was deemed too short to allow large aircraft such as the Boeing 747 to operate intercontinental routes out of Durban; the resulting decrease in international air traffic caused Durban to become marginalised with respect to Johannesburg and Cape Town. Construction resumed resumed August 24, 2007. KSIA boasts a 3700m runway.

Pic: Source: Saab SA