OR Tambo International Airport
When it was built in 1952, the OR Tambo International Airport was known as the Jan Smuts International Airport. At that time, it was named after Jan Christiaan Smuts who was the Prime Minister of South Africa between 1919-1924. Not long after the end of apartheid, a number of new governmental policies came into effect, one of which was the policy of not naming airports after politicians. Hence, in 1994 the Jan Smuts Airport was renamed the Johannesburg International Airport. However this policy soon fell out of favor and in 2006 the airport was renamed OR Tambo International Airport after Oliver Tambo who was a prominent South African politician. The OR Tambo International Airport is one of the country’s largest airports and it is situated near the city of Johannesburg in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. It also has the distinction of being Africa’s busiest airport, handling close to 20 million passengers a year.
The OR Tambo International Airport is a public airport operated by the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). While it mainly serves the nearby cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, it is viewed as the country’s primary airport for both domestic and international travel, so many people arriving at OR Tambo are not necessarily planning to spend much time in Johannesburg, but are moving on to other destinations. The airport has quite a high elevation of 5,512 ft (1 680 m) which makes it a ‘hot and high’ airport. This basically means that the air is thin at this altitude which affects the performance of the aircraft. Those aircraft which have to travel a long distance will usually have to stop off elsewhere to refuel since the high altitude and thin air limits the amount of fuel that the aircraft can carry at takeoff. Currently the airport has six terminals but these can be easily divided into three major areas – an international terminal, a domestic terminal and a transit terminal. Extensive renovations have ensured that the airport remains world-class and have included an extra terminal, a multiple story parkade and an international trade bureau. The airport also has two runways – one measuring 14,495 ft (4,418 m) in length and the other 11,119 ft (3,389 m). Both have an asphalt surface. Both run north-south and there is also a disused cross runway. The western runway is regarded as being one of the longest international airport runways in the world. The extra length is necessary because of the altitude in Johannesburg.
The OR Tambo International Airport is built in such a way that those waiting for the arrival of passengers or the departure of flights will be able to keep themselves entertained. There are shops and restaurants available as well as the normal facilities such as money changing operations, ATM machines and ticket booking facilities. The South African Airways Museum is housed on the grounds for those who are interested in the country’s aviation history.