Cape Town Supplement: SA Flyer Magazine November 2023

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November 2023




Aviation in and around Cape Town is doing simultaneously well – and not so well. Recreational Flying The flying schools are reporting strong growth. Morningstar, north of Cape Town, now has two busy flight schools and reports that it has never been busier. It has had a record number of new members join the flying club. Anecdotal accounts of recreational flying during the week show that the flying schools usually have a number of aircraft in the air at any one time. The exception to this is the Cape Town Airport based flying schools which have been

adversely impacted by the recent requirement imposed by ACSA that every flight to and from the airport have filed a flight plan. The high cost of fuel and maintenance is deterring many recreational pilots and the number of hours being flown per year is dropping. Notably, when the weather is marginal but flyable, pilots are choosing not to spend the money and fly – and many of the flying clubs fly aways are preferring shorter distances. This may be good for the accident statistics but is bad for proficiency.

Cape Town International Airport is struggling to get back to pre-Covid passenger numbers.


November 2023

Cape Town Airport Shortly before Covid, Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) was finally ready to start its huge R7 billion runway re-alignment and expansion. This included upgrades to the International and Domestic terminal buildings. Under Covid the project was suspended, as was the R3.8 billion construction of a new 3200-metre runway.

The use of CTIA as the point of departure for the increasing number of tourism flights to Antarctica adds an interesting dimension. Aircraft used range from the ‘vodka burner’ Ilyushin Il-76 to the latest Falcon and Gulfstream business jets, and even an Airbus A340 doing regular flights to the inland White Fang runway.

The high cos t of f uel

In pre-Covid operations Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) was the third largest airport in Africa, with almost eleven million passengers a year. The full recovery in passenger numbers has hoped to have been achieved in 2023 but is still awaited as the number of low cost carriers (LCCs) has been greatly reduced – with Mango and kulula having folded and just FlySafair and Lift still providing a much reduced basic LCC service. So the pressing need for the planned CTIA expansion has waned – at least for now.

Tourism In 2023 Cape Town was again rated as one of the best tourist destinations in the world, and so CTIA’s role has had to grow to match the expectation.

The airport was planning for a 90/10 split between international travellers and 90% local travellers. Due to the Cape’s success as a tourist destination, and in attracting new airlines, this mix is now nearer 25% international and 75% domestic. This is largely due to the airport’s ability to attract new airlines and expand the routes it serves.

Morningstar Airfield's growth shows that GA is alive and well in the Western Cape but that recreational flying is feeling the pinch.

November 2023


INTRODUCTION Cape Air Access Initiative

General Aviation

The world-renowned Cape Air Access Initiative has been instrumental in this success. The 2021 appointment of Ms Wrenelle Stander as CEO of Wesgro has further aided CTIA’s recovery. Notably SAA has decided to relaunch its Sao Paulo flights with just 2 flights from Johannesburg and 2 flights from Cape Town.

Cape Town International has a dedicated General Aviation area on the airport’s southwestern border. This section is home to the airport’s commercial non-scheduled operators, flight schools and the Cape Town Flying Club, as well as various GA maintenance facilities.

The wor ldr e nowne d Cape Air Acces s Init iat ive

Significant wins are being achieved in enticing airlines to operate directly to Cape Town. From the USA, both United Airlines and Delta are now competing to fly direct to CTIA from New York’s Newark and Atlanta respectively. Another recent win is Air Mauritius, which started operating its flagship Airbus A350900 service to Cape Town directly from late 2022.

It has its own refuelling facilities as well as hangarage for light aircraft and flight training schools, but lacks a dedicated GA customs and immigration facility.

A number of helicopter charter companies, such as Cape Town Helicopters and NAC, use the V&A Waterfront, near the city centre, as a base for tourist sightseeing flips around the peninsula

Fisantekraal Airport is being redeveloped as the Cape Winelands Airport.


November 2023

and to wine estates and surrounds. In October NAC launched it huge upgrade to its Cape Town Waterfront helicopter base. (see separate report)

But the big action is now to the north, at Morningstar Airfield, about 25 km north of the city on the N7 to Malmsbury.

General Aviation Airfields

Morningstar Flying Club was founded over 30 years ago by a bunch of microlight flying enthusiasts and has grown to over 600 members. There are over 100 aircraft based at Morningstar.

Since the heydays of general aviation some forty years ago, flying clubs have seen a general decline. It’s great to be able to report that Cape Town has not one but two thriving flying clubs – and the possibility of a third at the new Cape Winelands Airport.

done much to s pr ead t he love of f l y ing

The best-known flying club in the Cape has to be the venerable Stellenbosch club in its sylvan setting below the Hottentots Holland mountains. Despite the encroachment of housing developments and golf course estates, this club is thriving.

The club is showing the fruits of dynamic management in that it has, after lengthy negotiations, finalised a long term lease with the Cape Town City Council. This gives much need stability until 2030, and then has a further ten years notice, effectively giving the members twenty years further title. This security of tenure and solid management

Stellenbosh Airfield is consistently rated the most beautiful in South Africa. November 2023


INTRODUCTION The general aviation area at Cape Town International Airport.

has enabled the club to sell off hangar stands and so raise funds for the key infrastructure. They have a tarred 700m runway and taxiways and pride of place is a large clubhouse with modern kitchens and two flying schools.


November 2023

This club has done much to spread the love of flying and the option of choosing aviation as a career to many disadvantaged children in the Western Cape. j




REFLECTING THE company’s commitment to service and safety, NAC Helicopters Cape Town has won the World Luxury Travel award. This award recognises the central function NAC helicopters performs in providing helicopter sightseeing and charter operations, especially for visitors to the ‘fairest cape in all the world.’ j

NAC Helicopters MD, Gary Wilson receives the award in Athens.

November 2023


LAUNCH Images by Justin de Reuck.



WATERFRONT BASE. IN OCTOBER NAC LAUNCHED its new helicopter Cape Town facility at the V&A Waterfront at a glittering function that featured a drag artist and a singer in a bubble. A key guest of honour was Cape Town City

Councillor James Vos who was there in support of NAC Helicopters Cape Town and to officially open the new facility. Vos has a keen interest in general aviation and has been a key facilitator in assisting flying clubs. j

Alderman James Vos opens the NAC facility with a drag artist.


November 2023

NAC CEO JP Fourie shares the vision.

Current and former NAC staffers celebrate.

November 2023


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