Johannesburg International Airport is located near the city of Johannesburg, South Africa and the largest in Africa. Johannesburg International Airport is the main airport in Gauteng Province and South Africa as a whole.
Johannesburg International Airport was formerly known as Jan Smuts International Airport after a famous South African statesman, but it was renamed in the mid 1990s when the South Africa government implemented a national policy of not naming airports after politicians.
The local municipality has however applied for the name to be changed again to that of a political figure, this time OR Tambo International Airport. JohannesburgInternational Airport is the hub of South Africa’s largest international and domestic airline, South African Airways, and a number of smaller local airlines.
Johannesburg International Airport was used as a test airport for the Concorde during the 1970s, to determine how the aircraft would perform while taking off and landing at high altitude.
Johannesburg International Airport overtook Cairo International Airport in 1996 as the busiest airport in Africa, and is the second-busiest airport in the Africa-Middle East region after Dubai. Figures for 2004 show that more than 15.3 million people passed through the airport, an increase of some 7.3% on 2003 figures. Johannesburg International Airport is one of the 100 busiest in the world.
There are plans to create a new transit terminal between the domestic and international terminals, which will also house the Gautrain station linking the airport to Sandton, one of the metropolitan area’s main business districts and a primary tourist area.
There are two parallel runways, which run north-south, and a disused cross runway. The western runway, 03L/21R, is over 4400m in length, making it one of the world’s longest international airport runways. This is due to the aforementioned rarefied atmosphere problem – fully laden aircraft require a far greater length of runway to achieve take-off velocity at this altitude than they would normally.
During busy periods, outbound flights use the western runway for take-off, while inbound flights use the eastern runway for landing. Wind factors may cause numerous variations, but on most days flights will take off to the north and land from the south.
There are six terminals at Johannesburg International Airport, but these can be broken down into three major areas: the international terminal; the domestic terminal; and the transit terminal. The transit terminal housed disused parts of the old domestic terminals. It has been mostly demolished in order to build a new Central Terminal, which will provide an indoor link between domestic and international terminals, as well as a central passenger check-in area and more gates.
Johannesburg International Airport is likely to see the arrival of the new Airbus A380 in its first years of service, as Airbus has already listed the airport as one of the few destinations worldwide capable of handling the aircraft, and also because many international airlines operate long-haul routes to Johannesburg. For example, there are at least seven daily flights from London, all making use of Boeing 747-400s.
Johannesburg International also serves as grounds for the South African Airways Museum, a room filled with South African Airways memorabilia and which started as an idea by two fans of the airline until they could set it up in one of Jan Smuts International’s buildings in 1987.