NOTE: Don’t let small airstrips die

VRYBURG– What happens when municipalities are overwhelmed with tying the basic service delivery knot? Nothing but meeting minimum requirements, perpetual planning. The worst part is that civil society is too frustrated by the lack of basics and they struggle to look toward innovation.

Here’s an airstrip in Vryburg, North West Province, South Africa. A brief visit and a few conversations with locals expressed a telling story about how places and people develop. One man told me the story about the family that used to be deeply involved with the airstrip’s operations. People were used seeing small aircrafts take-off for hobby and in some cases for industry.

The truth about airports and airstrips is that if developed appropriately they can contribute to the activation of places and industries. However, one of the major issues is the long term neglect that plagued many of these facilities, and the trade-off between a few million Rand for maintenance and maintaining poor quality roads every other month. These pieces of infrastructure are expensive but their legacy value is profoundly catalytic. Meaning, they get places moving, they expand markets and they turn a small town like Vryburg into a dot in the bigger scheme of global aviation. With air traffic and revenues booming, it might be a good time to take a leap– once the basics are cleared of course. In the meantime, municipalities and civil society should make a move in this direction: awaken the sleeping giants at your doorstep. Don’t let small airstrips die.

Air travel around the world is growing rapidly. At least this year into 2025 or so. Some are propelled by huge populations and increasing incomes; other countries are growing rapidly because of the fierce competition and growing markets. Countries like China and India are growing partly because of the rapid expansion in the number of airports and not just capacity. Now in SA, as we wait for SA Express to return to the air one day, and more regional carriers to enter the market there’s much more happening on the ground than ever before.

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