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South Africa Table of Contents

South Africa

Civil Aviation

The Chief Directorate of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Transport, is responsible for providing air traffic services at about twenty airports throughout the country and for issuing licenses to airline pilots, navigators, and flight engineers. This directorate also certifies the airworthiness of all registered craft, and approves maintenance schedules and flight manuals. In early 1996, more than 6,100 registered civil aviation aircraft operate in South Africa.

The Chief Directorate of Civil Aviation operates nine major airports. They are located at Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, George, and Upington. In the mid-1990s, the government changed the names of these and several other large airports from the Afrikaner heroes they had commemorated in the past, to the cities in which they are located. The airports at Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are international airports and receive direct overseas flights. In addition, at least 300 landing strips throughout the country are used by private and commercial pilots.

South African Airways (SAA), the country's only national air carrier until the early 1990s, was established in 1934 by the South African Railways and Harbours Administration. After 1990 SAA was operated by the public company, Transnet. SAA has provided international service between Johannesburg and London since 1945 and has used jet passenger aircraft since 1953. In the mid-1990s, SAA operates a fleet of forty-eight aircraft, primarily Boeing 747s, Boeing 737s, and Airbus 300s, providing air service among all major cities in South Africa, with at least 687 domestic flights a week.

SAA was denied landing rights in most European and African countries and the United States in the 1980s and the early 1990s. A few African and Middle Eastern countries, such as Sudan, Congo, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Morocco, also denied SAA overflight rights, forcing SAA pilots to fly longer routes to avoid prohibited air space. The airline nonetheless continued to operate flights to several European and African capitals throughout the sanctions era; then, as sanctions eased in the early 1990s, SAA reestablished and expanded its international flight routes to the rest of Africa, the United States, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.

After the government began deregulating airlines in 1990--legalizing competition with SAA on domestic and international routes--several new private airlines were established in South Africa, and the number of foreign air carriers flying to South Africa increased to more than fifty. Transnet assumed control of at least one former homeland airline and established Alliance Airlines as a joint venture between SAA and the national carriers of Tanzania and Uganda. In addition, at least fifteen independent feeder airlines operate more than 200 routes linking smaller towns to cities served by international air carriers.


Although South Africa has no significant petroleum reserves, it uses a nationwide network of pipelines to transport imported crude oil to refineries and to transport other petroleum products to industrial areas. At least 931 kilometers of crude-oil pipelines, 322 kilometers of natural gas pipelines, and 1,748 kilometers of pipelines for other petroleum products make up this network in the mid-1990s.

Data as of May 1996