The Plettenberg Bay Aerodrome was originally registered on a South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA )Grade 2 level. This allows private aircrafts to operate from the premises. However, the Bitou Municipality, in an attempt to boost the tourism potential of the town, decided to explore the possibilities of allowing commercial flights to land at the aerodrome. Hence, the application for the aerodrome to be upgraded to a Grade 4. This is in line with the vision of the Bitou Municipality to create a state-of-the-art commercial hub around the airport.
Some of the major findings that led to downgrading are aviation-specific and required expertise that resides with external service providers. The main reason to engage the services of a commercial entity like CemAir was aimed at addressing the expertise that we do not have in-house as a municipality. Unfortunately, some of these did not materialize as expected and resulted in the downgrading.
We need to state it categorically clear that CemAir as a strategic partner was also expected to play a role in assisting us to be in a position to retain the grading as largely benefitted them as the commercial partner. They were supposed to provide guidance and also some of the equipment that was identified in the findings. CemAir's statement is more geared towards blaming the Bitou Municipality instead of providing solutions because they are the main beneficiaries.
The Bitou Municipality accepts the decision taken by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) to downgrade the status of the Plettenberg Bay Aerodrome. This is a result of several non-compliances that were highlighted in the Audit Inspection reports. We will continue to operate at our Grade 2 status until we have acquired the services of a strategic partner to develop and manage the aerodrome.
There is a standing council resolution to go out on a 'Call for Proposals' process that will allow the municipality to hand over the development and management of the Aerodrome to a competent private party. The procurement process for this is currently underway.
The municipality still maintains its vision to develop an economically viable state-of-the-art aerodrome that will put Bitou Municipality on the map and confirm Plettenberg Bay as a world-renowned tourism destination. In the interim, the municipality is rolling a program as a corrective measure to the situation. This entails short to medium-term interventions.
The Bitou Municipality had several engagements with Wesgro, SALGA, Provincial, and National Treasury between 2019 and the early parts of 2020 regarding the management of the aerodrome. The idea was to get in an investor that would assist in upgrading the aerodrome and bringing it to a level closer to the George Airport. However, the Covid -19 pandemic led to the stalling of these engagements and plans.
Priority will be given to address the findings, our engagements today with SA-CAA were very positive, and they did give the assurance that the move is not punitive but aimed at ensuring that our commercial partners and travelers experience safe and risk-free services at the aerodrome. They are committed to working hand in hand with the Bitou Municipality to restore the situation to its normality as soon as possible.
Issued By: Andile Namntu on behalf of
Advocate Lonwabo Ngoqo
Municipal Manager of the Bitou Local Municipality