ESWACAA Details the Evolution of the Eswatini Aviation Industry

It appears that there had never been a noticeable trace of an aircraft in the skies of Eswatini until 1917 when the first aircraft was seen flying over Eswatini, with no knowledge of where it was destined and where it had originated. It was only in 1918 that the first aircraft finally landed in the country near Mbabane, which was flown by Major Aldwincle J. Miller.

This is according to information sourced from the Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWACAA).

ESWACAA states that by 1940 the country had constructed aircraft landing airstrips in Ngonini, Tambuti, Ubombo Ranches, Tabankulu, Golela, and Mhlambanyatsi Estate which were areas that were mostly used by aircraft for pesticide irrigation purposes for the farms.

“In 1951, Mr. A.J.M Aldwincle was requested by the then-Swazi Government to identify an ideal area to build an airport locally. He identified Matsapha, where the first commercial base was built and commissioned in 1962, operating between Johannesburg and Durban, and later Mozambique, for as little as E10 per trip.”

“The evolution of the industry took a major turn in 1978 when the first National Airline (Royal Swazi Airline) was established. Other airlines operating in the country were Zimbabwe Airways, Com Air, Botswana Airways, Swazi Cargo, Lesotho Airways, Magnum, Air Mozambique, and Zambia Airways, to name a few.”

The authority notes that since then, several transformational activities started unfolding, ranging from the Matsapha airport undergoing a facelift, the construction of a new control tower and runway, as well as the installation of airfield lighting.

In 2009, however, the Government of Eswatini passed the first Bill for the regulation of the aviation industry known as the Civil Aviation Act of 2009, which transformed the then Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) into the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) and was later changed to Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWACAA).

In 2010, the Construction of King Mswati III International Airport was completed. The Airport was certified and officially opened by His Majesty King Mswati III on March 7, 2014. The airport received its first commercial flight on 30 September 2014.

ESWACAA’s Plans for the Future: Special Economic Zone 

KMIII International Airport was declared a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) under the SEZ Act of 2018. A total area of 2,000 hectares has been reserved for the development of an airport city. This is in a bid to stimulate economic activity in and around the airport while improving the social conditions of EmaSwati in and around the proximity of the airport.

The main aim of this project is to create Eswatini’s first Aerotropolis/Airport City which will be a catalyst for international trade seamlessly without customs and export hustles, and at cost-effective rates that can significantly increase the bottom line for both business and government.

In turn, this will create high-value sectors with export products that can reach the World Markets at speedy rates of 12-24 hours focusing on industrializing Eswatini through the export of lightweight but high-value products while offering specialized tourism services to fulfill lifestyle, sporting, and recreational needs.

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