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10 Facts: OR Tambo International Airport


I’ve been to OR Tambo International Airport a few times, either to drop of someone or get onto a plane myself. In 2004 I got on my first airplane ever and flew to London via Dubai from Johannesburg (14 hour flight in total). In 2005 I flew down to Cape Town to visit a friend and In 2009 we flew down spend 7 days in December in Cape Town.

I must admit that I prefer flying over driving (although some people might argue that flying is more expensive). This significant South African airport has been selected as the 10 facts topic on Running Wolf’s Rant for today.

Here are some facts about OR Tambo International Airport:

  • OR Tambo International Airport was founded in 1952 as Jan Smuts Airport (2 years after SA statesman Jan Smuts’ death) near the town of Kempton Park on the East Rand.
  • Jan Smuts Airport displaced the Palmietfontein International Airport (which was located in Southern Johannesburg) and had handled international flights from 1945.
  • The airport was renamed from Jan Smuts Airport to Johannesburg International Airport in 1994. Legislation prohibited airport names to be politically motivated at the time.
  • In 1996 Johannesburg International Airport became the busiest airport in Africa. The airport took the title away from Cairo International Airport in Egypt.
  • In 2006 Johannesburg International Airport was renamed to OR Tambo International Airport (after the former leader of the African National Congress). This was after legislation was changed to allow Airport names to be politically motivated.
  • OR Tambo has an estimated annual capacity for 28,000,000 passengers.
  • OR Tambo International Airport is situated 1694m above sea level.
  • In the 1970s the airport was used as a test airport for the Concorde to determine how the aircraft would perform when taking off and landing at high altitude.
  • A new transit terminal at OR Tambo International Airport has been built. This houses the Gautrain station that will link the airport to Sandton. Operations on this section of the Gautrain will start of the 8th of June 2010 (3 days before the 2010 FIFA World Cup starts).
  • There are two parallel North-South runways and a disused cross runway. The Western runway, 03L/21R, is over 4400 m (14,000 ft) long, making it one of the world’s longest international airport runways. OR Tambo International Airport used to have a 3rd runway but it was closed due to the danger it posed. It is now a taxiway for aircraft.

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