Wednesday, April 24, 2013

■ CONGO (KINSHASA): Lubumbashi Airport to close 3 days a week from May to October as RVA finally upgrades crumbling infrastructure.

DRCLubumbashi International Airport (also known as Luano International Airport) is to be closed for three days a week between May and October 2013 due to maintenance and upgrading works being done to the airport terminal and runway 07/25.

Takeoff from Lubumbashi
Takeoff from Lubumbashi
(note runway 07/25 condition)
Between May 14 and October, the airport will be closed for 24 hours every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday though it will be fully operational every Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Part of the works in the USD19million project outlined by the Congolese Regie des Voies Aériennes (RVA), the authority responsible for running the DRC's airports, include: 
  • the rehabilitation of the runway and its lighting;
  • installation of a Thales-ADS-B ground station;
  • installation of an ILS (unconfirmed)
  • the construction of a control  tower, service area and fire station;
  • a new power plant needed to meet safety standards and to provide centralized management for electrical power distribution at the facility.
Largely neglected since Belgian colonial times, Lubumbashi's 3'200m long runway has become hazardous to aircraft owing to bumps and holes resulting in 650m of the track being rendered unserviceable. This therefore explains the existence of 07/25's exaggerated displaced threshold. In 2010, an Ethiopian Airlines (ET) 737-800 went off the runway after touch down as a result of the holes with other airlines subsequently  threatening to boycott the route if nothing was done to improve the situation.

In a related story, South African Express (XZ)  has amended its Johannesburg - Lubumbashi flight schedule accordingly. Flights SA1797 Johannesburg to Lubumbashi and SA1798 Lubumbashi to Johannesburg have been cancelled on Wednesdays and Thursdays and all passengers have been re-accommodated on Friday flights, from 15 May 2013 to 14 November 2013.