Durbanites used to travel south to Toti in order to fly away anywhere, but now they travel north, past scenic sugarcane fields, until they reach La Mercy and the mighty King Shaka International Airport (KSIA), an airport that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the hotshots from around the world. KSIA might not be as big as the hulking Heathrow, as renowned as that loud-mouthed American JFK, or sit in such a plumb central seat as Dubai, but in some ways he’s smarter, he’s certainly got sass and looks on his side, and, well, he’s from Africa, so dude gets extra ‘Awesome Points’ just for that!
What are we talking about? Here are some impressive facts, figures and titbits you probably didn’t know about your very own King Shaka International Airport that will make you justly proud of our local contender.
1. KSIA’s bird radar system
KSIA has a bird radar system, the first of its kind for a commercial airport anywhere in the world. The system is linked directly to the control tower so that the guys and girls up there will know straight away if any potentially hazardous bird movement is occurring.
With the Mount Moreland reed bed just a couple of kilometres away, this was felt a necessary precaution. About 3 million European barn swallows – that’s roughly 8 percent of the total population – migrate to the reed bed every year to roost. They make for a phenomenal natural sight when they settle at dusk and take off in the early morning.
It’s in order to protect them and the airport’s passengers that the radar system was installed.
2. The airport was an incredibly expensive project
R6.8 billion in total to be exact (or R7.6 billion, depending on who you talk to!), a figure that makes it South Africa’s second most expensive transport infrastructure project after the Gautrain.
3. In 2012 KSIA was named Africa’s 2nd Best Airport
Who beat it out to the top spot, you ask? Only another of SA’s airports – Cape Town International – so one can’t be too disappointed about that.
4. KSIA will become part of Zulu Kingdom heritage
KSIA is named after the founder of the Zulu Kingdom, King Shaka kaSenzangakhona, and stands on ILembe District land, which is culturally significant to the Zulu people. In 2011 the present-day Zulu king, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, chose KSIA to be part of the bicentenary celebrations honouring 200 years of the world-famous Zulu nation. As such KSIA will enter into Zulu heritage and legacy.
5. Fully automated cargo terminal
The cargo terminal is fully automated, and is one of only two of its kind in Africa. It boasts state-of-the-art airfreight handling facilities.
6. KSIA’s award winning capacity
The airport is actually capable of processing 7.5 million passengers a year, a couple million more than its current load.
7. The airport actively supports conservationist efforts
Apart from ensuring that the local birds are looked after, KSIA, as part of its CSI initiative, (need to add when the event was hosted) hosted a Rhino Parade on its premises in conjunction with the Wildlands Conservation Trust and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
With support from local celebrities such as Chad le Clos, Shaun Pollock and Ray Phiri, KSIA invited students from DUT to create life-size rhino statues which they would then paint, each one according to a star’s colour choices. The event was held in a bid to raise awareness for the Save the Rhino Campaign.
8. The landside gardens at KSIA are spectacular and 100% indigenous
KSIA was the first greenfield airport to be commissioned by ACSA in 50 years. The freedom that comes from having no constraints in the planning phase meant the landscapers could develop magnificent gardens, and KSIA’s flowerbeds are some of the most wonderful you will see anywhere in the world.
When the aloes, strelitzias and African irises, among others, are in full bloom, they blanket the area in beautiful African colour.
Feeling proud of our KSIA? We are!