MWANZA AIRPORT RUNWAY EXPANSION TO REACH 3.8 KILOMETRES LENGTH
(Posted 12th January 2015)
During a recent site visit to Mwanza was Tanzania’s Minister for Transport quoted to have said the runway of the lakeside airport would be extended to 3.8 kilometres length, making it the country’s longest upon completion.
Owing to the elevation of 3.720 feet above mean sea level, equivalent to about 1.135 metres, are longer runways the only guarantee that fully loaded planes, here in Mwanza often cargo plane exporting chilled lake fish fillets, can take off safely or without having to operate with weight restrictions.
Also tackled under the ongoing renovations and modernization of Mwanza airport is the problem of poor drainage which has in the past, after torrential rains, flooded part of the airport and made operations impossible.
Ongoing work has been slowed down by the lack of timely payments to the contractors it was learned but overall is Tanzania rolling out airport, aerodrome and airfield improvements across the country as part of an agreement some years ago within the East African Community to improve aviation infrastructure across the region. This involves not only airport installations but also navigational equipment as recently reported here when in fact Mwanza got a new weather radar.
Lead agency is the Tanzania Airport Authority which is also overseeing the construction of a new international terminal at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, the expansion of Kilimanjaro International Airport and is planning for the modernization and expansion of Mtwara airport (HTMT – runway length 7.415 feet) in the south of the country. Bukoba (HTBU – runway length 4.565 feet), across Lake Victoria from Mwanza in the extreme Western part of Tanzania, has also seen extensive work on the facilities and was re-launched only a few months ago. In December 2012 was the new Songwe airport (HTGW – runway length 10.925 feet) opened for traffic, located some 25 kilometres from the town of Mbeya, where another smaller aerodrome (HTMB – runway length 5.150 feet) also handles traffic. Fastjet, in terms of passengers Tanzania’s largest jet airline, flies twice a day from Dar es Salaam to the new airport of Songwe.
The expansion and upgrade of Mwanza airport to a full international status – the airport already receives regional flights from Rwanda and Kenya – has again raised questions on the logic and rationale of building another airport in the Serengeti district, as local tourism traffic can easily be flown to the Serengeti airstrips from Mwanza using available light aircrafts stationed there. Environmental concerns have been raised about the planned airport project near the Serengeti National Park by the dozens with in particular the frail environment and lack of enough water being cited as key reasons why no airport should be built in such a remote location.
Airlines using Mwanza however have in the meantime expressed their satisfaction about the ongoing developments, among them Fastjet, Precision Air, RwandAir and Auric Air, the latter having originated from Mwanza before spreading operations across the entire country.
Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from the Eastern African region.