Sikhuphe Airport to start operating next year
SIKHUPHE - The multi-million Sikhuphe International Air port will start operating early next year, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Bertram Stewart has said.
The PS was responding to questions from ambassadors from the Far East who were touring the under-construction international airport yesterday.
About seven diplomats from the Gulf and the Far East toured the airport. The ambassadors were from countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen and Iran.
One of the ambassadors wanted to know when the airport would start operating. "We were supposed to start operating last year but construction works were delayed due to financial challenges. We are, however, hopeful that the airport will start operating early next year," said PS Stewart, who was leading the tour.
Another question that popped up during the tour was why government identified the Sikhuphe area for construction of the airport.
The PS said many areas had been identified as potential places for construction of the airport but since the country is mountainous, many of these turned out to be unsuitable for a project of this magnitude.
He said Sikhuphe was identified as ideal.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) Solomon Dube was the one tasked with explaining many things to the diplomats about the new airport.
Essentially four vital areas of the airport were toured, namely the Fuel Farm Area, the runway, the terminal and air control tower.
Dube told the ambassadors that the air control tower was 50 metres tall and was more advanced than the one situated at the Matsapha Airport.
He said the tower would enable airport air control personnel to see any airplane utilising the Swazi airspace at any time.
Chief Protocol Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Promise Msibi expressed concern at the apparent thinness of the runway and wanted to know if it was suitable for use by aircrafts.
PS Stewart said to the naked eye, the runway looked thin but it had been proven to be suitable for use by all kinds of aircrafts.
The SWACAA CEO told the diplomats that the airport terminal was world class and showed them its different sections, including the departure and arrival zones, VIP lounge, immigrations department and the luggage area.
Most of the ambassadors appeared impressed by the progress made at the airport and hailed the government for showing commitment in the project, which has partly been funded by their respective countries.
Present during the tour were Ministers Prince Hlangusempi, Princess Tsandzile, Mduduzi ‘Small Joe’ Dlamini, Swazi Ambassadors Phesheya Dlamini, Prince Tjekedi, Felizwe Dlamini and senior government officials.