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Fly Away: Kimberley Airport

A gateway to the Kalahari, the Karoo and the industrial heart of South Africa.

Kimberley Airport is a great stop-over point on a long cross-country trip. It’s also a gateway to the Kalahari, the Karoo and the industrial heart of South Africa. Along with scheduled flights for SAA in Boeing 727s and 737s, I’ve used it as a pit stop when ferrying Pitts Specials, Harvards, and even the Spitfire from Joburg to the Cape.

Getting there

Take the time to ensure that you’re properly orientated. When you approach the city, the airport can be fairly difficult to find as it’s situated in a rather featureless area with no significant landmarks.

There are two intersecting runways that are long and wide. They run east-west and north-south, so four different options are available for take-offs and landings. When planning to land there, pilots need to get themselves totally orientated before entering the Kimberley TMA. This is because ATC is going to issue a joining instruction that applies to any one of the four runways. It will be either for a left-hand or a right-hand downwind, or a left-hand or right-hand base leg. Plan the route you’ll take to the parking area.

Another handy tip is to make a study of the airport layout chart before arrival so you can ask ATC to use a specific runway in order to have a shorter taxi distance to the parking area. On certain runways, however, a very long taxi to the parking area is unavoidable.

Depending on the type of aircraft you’re flying and if it’s safe to do so, a deeper touch-down will help to reduce the taxi distance. Land closer to the runway edge than the centre line. The runways are also wide because they meet the specifications for the operation of airliners. Since most leisure flyers and operators of small aircraft fly in and out of runways and airstrips that can be very narrow, depth perception and judgement of height over a wide runway become difficult. It’s best to land either left or right of the centre-line, fairly close to the edge, so that grass, shrubs and small ant hills just off the side of the runway can be used to judge your height.

Look out for summer turbulence

Expect down-draughts on a hot summer’s day. The only other thing to be aware of is that in the late mornings and early afternoons on the really hot summer days Kimberley is known for, the air can get pretty turbulent, particularly over the runways. There are occasional gusts of wind, up-draughts and down-draughts, as well as dust devils typical of semi-desert areas.

When flying B-727s and B-737s into Kimberley, if we felt it was necessary, we would sometimes add an extra five knots to our approach speeds to deal with any sudden down-draughts.

Convenient and secure

Kimberley Airport is very user friendly, with very helpful ATC and ground staff. Fuel is readily available and there are also clean restrooms close to the parking area. It’s best to take your own “pad-kos”, as you cannot rely on a cafeteria or food kiosk to be open.

For those who wish to spend a night in the city, airport security is very good. On departure, ask ATC for a departure that will take you over the city, where you can circle the Big Hole. It’s an impressive sight for both young and old!




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