E1m to land Kuwait PM
MATSAPHA— Government this week spent close to E1 million on renting ground handling equipment that made the Airbus 310 used by visiting Kuwait prime minister and his delegation to be able to land and take off from the Matsapha International Airport.
Without the equipment which was transported by road from Johannesburg, the larger than life aircraft would not have landed.
Government also footed the bill for transporting the equipment that is usually used at the Johannesburg International Airport.
The equipment, which comprises of six different heavy duty tools, was hired from Khalanga Project Engineers, who were at the airport to ensure that the plane landed and left safely.
Even a waste disposal unit was part of the machinery and according to airport manager Jabulani Ngubane, each plane has its own specific equipment.
Due to the small size of the Matsapha International Airport, the plane also had to be towed to the straight airstrip in order for it to taxi and take off and this was done using a specialised tow tractor that resembled a small armoured vehicle.
The present equipment that the country has for the aircraft that land in the country was as good as useless to land this plane.
The 60 men delegation led by PM Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah jetted out of the country on Friday afternoon after a two day stay and during this period eight agreements were signed which included an Economic and Technical Co-operation.
Although none of the relevant authorities was forth coming with the exact cost of the rental for the equipment, a reliable source at the airport said it was well over E800 000.
Public Works and Transport Minister Ntuthuko Dlamini confirmed that the equipment had indeed cost a lot, but would not give the exact figure.
“It was of vital importance that we get the equipment into the country, and what I can say is that the company we used was one of the most reasonable,” said Dlamini.
Dlamini said the visit by the Kuwaiti PM was very important and therefore they had to pull out all the stops.
Abie Smit Jnr, who is the Production and Quality Manager for Khalanga confirmed that they had indeed given government a huge discount compared to what they normally charged.
Information gathered from the Internet stated that sometimes the ground handling companies can charge as much as US$5000 (about E40 000) per load or take off some aircraft especially the big ones.
The price was further shot up the roof by the fact that this was only one aircraft the company was going to service yet sometimes on a daily basis, especially in large airports such as the OR International Airport they could service up to 15 aircrafts or more.
They charge per aircraft serviced at that one particular time.
“It was pretty expensive because as you understand they had to leave Johannesburg and only concentrate on one aircraft for two full days,” said Dlamini.
Smit when asked what they charged government, also politely said that this was between themselves and the government.
“We would not like to lose such an opportunity, should it arise to work with the government of Swaziland,” he said.
Dlamini on the other hand said this would be the kind of equipment that would need to be purchased once the Sikhuphe International Airport was complete.
Even though the aircraft took off in the afternoon, the ground crew was already at work in the wee hours of the morning due to the size of the plane.
Coincidentally, the Kuwait government has financed construction of the road from Mbadlane to the Sikhuphe airport. Dlamini further said they were hoping that such big planes similar to the Kuwait Airline would land at the airport. The aircraft also has specialised equipment for fuelling and it took about 50 000 litres when it was fuelled at the airport prior to departure.
Another agreement that was signed between the two countries was the Air Services Agreement. The PM is on a tour to several African states that included Benin, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Comoros and Senegal.