Leonard Ncube and Nyemudzai Kakore in Victoria Falls
Government has set mid this year as the new deadline for the commissioning of the $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport. Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo toured the facility last Friday where he expressed satisfaction with progress saying the new-look airport which, when completed, will handle 1,5 million passengers per annum, will likely be ready in May this year.
“We hope by end of May the project will be complete. We hope to start upgrading the VVIP lounge beginning of February that is why we think by May work will be completed and then the project will be commissioned,” said Dr Gumbo.
“I am happy with the progress that I see. People have worked hard. I came here in December and there is a difference. It shows that people are now working 24 hours a day. This is impressive.”
The new-look facility, whose refurbishment started in February 2013, has missed numerous deadlines and now sits at an overall 85 percent completion.
“We want to commission the whole project when it’s complete. Once this place, where we are now, has been upgraded into a VVIP lounge, we can be able to give a date,” said Dr Gumbo.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) general manager Mr David Chaota said the project was nearing completion.
“The implementation of the project was in two phases. The first phase was to build the international terminal building, the runway and control tower because the three work hand in hand. By completing that phase, that would enable us to be able to renovate existing facilities which is where we are,” said Mr Chaota.
Work on the current terminal, which was holding both domestic and international travellers and also conversion of the runway into a parallel taxi way is in progress, Mr Chaota said.
He said the state-of-the-art control tower with equipment that has capacity to bring aircraft further down to about 100 feet from 200 feet towards the ground together with the new 4km-runway and the new international terminal were already operational.
Work is still in progress on the construction of the fire station whose capacity would handle four fire tender vehicles suitable for any plane size and the water tower.
In the international terminal, where all the departure lounges are already operational, international travellers could be seen going through immigration process on the state-of-the-art check-in counters and waiting halls. In-built restaurants are also now operational.
Once completed, the new facility will treble passenger handling capacity from 500 000 passengers to 1,5 million passengers per annum. It will also accommodate wide bodied aircraft such as B747, B777 and A380.
Plans are also underway to upgrade Harare International Airport while other ports of entry such as Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo in Bulawayo, Bufallo Range and Kariba airports are being renovated.