This article is about an airport that is no longer in use for commercial service. To see Durban's current commercial airport, see King Shaka International Airport
Durban International Airport (formerly Louis Botha Airport) was the international airport of Durban from 1951 until 2010, when it was replaced by King Shaka International Airport, to the north. The airport is co-located with AFB Durban.
The airport was opened in 1951, replacing the Stamford Hill Aerodrome. The original name of the airport was Louis Botha International, named after the South African statesman. The airport maintained this name until 1994 and the political changes that came with that year in South Africa. While the airport served the domestic market well, the airport suffered from low international passenger numbers and a runway that was too short for a fully laden Boeing 747 to take off. Due to the short runway and the hub and spoke policy that was adopted in the 1990s (favouring OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg), Durban lost almost all of its international traffic.
Plans to move the airport to La Mercy, approximately north of Durban International Airport, were proposed and shelved numerous times between the 1970s and 2007, before construction of what was to become King Shaka International Airport began in September 2007. Construction of the new airport was completed in 2010, with Durban International Airport handling its final flight on April 30, 2010 and all flights transferring to King Shaka International Airport in a single, overnight move.
At the time of the airport's closure, the following airlines operated scheduled services to Durban International Airport:
- Air Mauritius
- British Airways (operated by Comair)
- South African Airways
- South African Express
Accidents and incidents
- On June 30, 1962, a Douglas DC-4 (registration ZS-BMH) operating a scheduled South African Airways flight from Johannesburg to Durban collided with a South African Air Force Harvard trainer. The DC-4 made a successful emergency landing with 46 passengers and 5 crew; the Harvard trainer crashed with its crew of two parachuting to safety. The DC-4 was subsequently repaired.
- On December 28, 1973, a Douglas DC-3 (registration ZS-DAK) operated by Executive Funds lost both engines when turning onto final approach and ditched in the Indian Ocean. One passenger drowned out of the 22 passengers and 3 crew.
- On June 18, 2008, a British Airways Boeing 737-400 (operated by Comair), operating as Flight 6203 from Johannesburg, skidded off the runway at Durban International Airport while landing under adverse weather conditions. The aircraft was reported to have hit a wet patch on the tarmac, causing it to skid and resulting in the right landing-gear becoming embedded in the surrounding earth. The incident caused the closure of the airport for both arrivals and departures for several hours. All 87 passengers and six crew members escaped without serious injury.
- On September 24, 2009, Airlink Flight 8911 crashed in the suburb of Merebank shortly after takeoff from Durban International Airport, injuring its crew of three and one person on the ground.
- On 19 December 2009 An Emirates Airlines Airbus A330-200, flight EK-775 from Dubai to Durban with 220 passengers, was enroute at around 13:30Z about 2 hours prior to estimated landing in Durban, when the airplane encountered severe turbulence. A doctor on board provided first aid to the injured on board. The airplane continued to Durban for a safe landing. 8 passengers were brought to a local hospital, 12 more were treated at the airport for minor injuries, all other passengers were offered trauma counselling.Passengers reported, that trolleys, bags, passengers and flight attendants were flying through the cabin hitting the ceiling and overhead lockers. Panels got broken, wires were hanging down from the ceiling, seats and armrests were broken. The initial upset, during which the airplane seemed to plunge, lasted for about 10 seconds, the turbulence continued for a couple of minutes.The hospital reported, three people received spinal injuries, one received a broken hand, the other 4 received minor injuries.
The airport will be used by the South African Air Force and the Police Air Wing during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, before being decommissioned.
Although it is currently unclear as to what the future usage of the airport site will be, it is widely expected that the site will be used for future industrial development. The site is located on a large parcel of flat land in the Durban South Industrial Basin, which is already home to much of the city's heavy industry; given Durban's generally very hilly terrain, such a large, flat parcel is ideal for future industrial development, port expansion, or both.
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