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Wing your way to Zululand

2012-04-03 09:51:00

From 28 March 2012 there will be daily scheduled flights between Ulundi and Pietermaritzburg with a stop at Durban's Virginia Airport planned depending on demand. The high cost of fuel and driving time in excess of three hours from Pietermaritzburg to Ulundi makes air travel the safest and fastest option for commuters between the two cities. Bookings can be done online at www.federalair.com While the immediate demand is from business and government passengers, the district is optimistic about the tourism spin offs. The Ulundi airport's close proximity to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the Emakhosini Opathe Heritage Park, and important Zulu cultural-historic attractions make it an ideal entry and exit point for travellers on a limited time schedule. Tourists can fly into Ulundi and travel 35 kms on a tarred road to the Cengeni Gate of the Imfolozi section of the park which offers excellent game viewing. A R30 Million civil and procedural upgrade currently underway at the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi airport will bring the facility back to international aviation standards in readiness for the flights which will be operated by Federal Air. The Zululand District Municipality has undertaken the upgrade with an infrastructural grant from KZN Provincial government. The main runway has been relayed, navigational instruments have been installed for all-weather capability, rescue and fire equipment have been upgraded and the terminal buildings are being remodelled. The district has invited expressions of interest for car rental, freight forwarding and shuttle services as well as the operation of an airport restaurant and office space leasing. More information is provided on the Zululand District website www.zululand.org.za The Ulundi airport was originally designed to serve as an international gateway and was built with a 1750 metre long runway which can accommodate 737 jet airliners. The Zululand District Municipality thus finds itself in the enviable position of already having a highly sophisticated airport and supporting structures that would in today's marketplace cost millions to replace. The airport is a critical piece of infrastructure in terms of ensuring disaster management and health services for close on 1 million residents in the Ulundi area. The airport has been under-utilised since the KZN provincial government terminated subsidised flights for government travel in 2003. However research by the Zululand District Municipality showed that in 2008 government officials were still making 6000 trips a month between Ulundi and Pietermaritzburg and this gave impetus to plans to revitalise Ulundi's regional airport. Both the KZN MEC for Finance, Ina Cronje and the Zululand District Mayor, Cllr Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi have called on public servants to support the resumption of daily flights in order to ensure safety and save time.

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