Rand Airport

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Rand Airport
Rand Airport Control Tower landside.JPG
Rand Airport Control Tower from landside
Airport type Public
Operator Rand Airport Management Company (Pty) Ltd.
Location Germiston, Gauteng
Elevation AMSL 1,671 m / 5,482 ft
Coordinates 26°14′33″S 028°09′04″E / 26.24250°S 28.15111°E / -26.24250; 28.15111Coordinates: 26°14′33″S 028°09′04″E / 26.24250°S 28.15111°E / -26.24250; 28.15111
Website http://www.randairport.co.za
QRA is located in Greater Johannesburg
Location in Greater Johannesburg
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11/29 5,617 1,712 Asphalt
17/35 4,898 1,493 Asphalt

Rand Airport (IATA: QRAICAO: FAGM) is an airport in Germiston, South Africa. It was constructed in the 1920s as the main airport for Johannesburg, but the city outgrew it and replaced the airport firstly with Palmietfontein Airport in the late 1940s, then with the larger Jan Smuts International Airport in the 1950s.

South African Airways donated two Boeing 747s to the "South African Airways Museum Society" which are on display at the airport (see Gallery). They can be clearly seen on Google Earth adjacent to the threshold of runway 29.


Pre WWII[edit]

The airport was officially opened on 21 December 1931[1] owned jointly by the Germiston City Council, the Rand Gold Refinery and Elandsfontein Estates. It became the headquarters of South African Airways when the head office was moved from Durban to Rand Airport on 1 July 1935.[2]

Post WWII[edit]

SAA moved its headquarters to Palmietfontein Airport in 1948 because of runway length constraints. Nevertheless, Rand Airport grew quickly after the World War II because of the pool of ex air-force pilots. In 1975, with 133 135 recorded aircraft movements, Rand Airport was the busiest airport in the southern hemisphere.[3]

The ownership of the airport has been remarkably steady since the buy-out, a testimony to how well the original ownership structure was conceived and assembled. There were originally 23 private shareholders and there has been very little change. Most of the re-sales have been taken up by existing owners under new company names so there has been a small increase to the current 25 owners, plus the Mayondi BEE consortium and Ekurhuleni Town Council. The ownership structure of the airport is unique in that most of the hangars are owned with full freehold title. Some of the tenants elected not to buy their hangars and so these are owned by the Airport Holding company and are leased to tenants, which provides essential long term income for the airport and additional revenue to maintain and improve the facilities.[4]

Rand Airport from the observation deck

Rand Airport today[edit]

Today, the airport hosts air charter operators, flying schools and a number of aircraft maintenance organizations, as well as pilot shops, car hire and other aviation-related enterprises.[5] The managing consortium claims that “It has the potential to become the complete integrated Airport Park” which will include hotels, shopping and an industrial park.[6] The airport also hosts an annual air show.[7]

Navigational Aids[edit]

The following navigational aids are installed for non precision instrument approaches at this airport.[8] There is no Instrument Landing System.

Type Identification Frequency
NDB RA 337.5 kHz
NDB RD 307.5 kHz

Hot and high conditions[edit]

Rand Airport is notorious for its hot and high conditions and relatively short runways. Situated at an altitude of 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level, the density altitude is as high as 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) when the outside air temperature (OAT) is 30 °C. Special consideration must be given to flight planning in the summer when the ambient temperature is that high; there have been many accidents at this airfield as a result of reduced aircraft performance under these extreme conditions. A compounding factor is the lack of forced landing fields or areas, as the airport is surrounded by urban sprawl.

Notable accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On October 6, 1970 at about 7:10am, Douglas DC-3 ZS-DKR en route for Orapa, Botswana crashed as it attempted to return to Rand Airport after losing the port engine just after take-off from runway 35. There were two flight-crew and ten passengers aboard. The Captain and two passengers subsequently died of injuries. The aircraft was completely burnt-out after impact.[9]
  • On April 13, 1987 a Beechcraft 200 Super King Air, ZS-KMT, crashed into a mining hostel shortly after takeoff from runway 35. Three crewmembers were killed and 2 survived. The aircraft was on a night training exercise.[10]
  • On Aug 2, 1995, an Antonov An-2 on a cargo flight from Rand airport to Jamba, Angola, crashed shortly after takeoff killing all three persons on board. The accident was attributed to the cargo which was not properly secured and shifted during the initial climb out, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable.[11]
  • On December 6, 1999 a Piper PA-31-350 crashed shortly after takeoff after suffering an engine failure. All 10 people on board were killed.[8]
  • On October 21, 2008, six occupants of a Piper PA-32R-300 Lance were killed during a post crash fire following an emergency landing in a disused motor raceway. The aircraft had just taken off from runway 35 when the pilot reported technical difficulties and attempted a forced landing.[12]
  • On August 14, 2011, two Piaggio P.166 "Albatross" aircraft, which were based at Rand Airport, disappeared whilst en route on a flight from Tzaneen to Rand Airport. The wreckage was found two days later in the mountains near Tzaneen. Two pilots and eleven passengers died on impact.[13]

Airlines, operators and destinations[edit]

An ATL-98 Carvair in storage at Phoebus Apollo Aviation. Only 21 were built.
View of the northwest apron with the Henley Air hangars on the right.
  • Henley Air

The airport is also home to the Flying Lions Aerobatic Team.

Nearby tourist attractions[edit]

The "Lebombo", a retired Boeing 747 from South Africa Airways is on display at the SAA Museum at Rand Airport, South Africa. Two simulators, one a Boeing 747 classic and one an Airbus A300, also donated to the museum can be seen bottom left.

Popular culture[edit]

Rand Airport is a popular location for filmmaking for both the local and international film industries.

  • The scene in the film "American Ninja 2: The Confrontation" in which Armstrong and Jackson arrive at the airport on a fictitious Caribbean island was filmed at Rand Airport.


(Click to enlarge)


External links[edit]