Construction of the fourth international Tanzania airport, the new Songwe International Airport, is nearing completion and is preparing to begin its operations later this year in the Southern Highland region of the country.
Construction of the airport, which was originally started in 2001, is in line with the government initiative to improve the efficiency and safety of air traffic in the country.
The country’s three other international airports are the Mwalimu Nyere, the Kilimanjaro and the Zanzibar International Airports.
According to a report by the East African last year, the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda has said that this airport was an important addition to the country as it would help to increase the national income and also attract investors, such as Tanzania Breweries Ltd. who has shown an interest in investing in Mbeya.
“The airport is not important for Mbeya region only,” said Mr. Pinda in the East African, “it is also important for Rukwa, where it will assist livestock keepers and neighboring countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, which need the airport for their businesses.”
The airport construction project received its part of its funding from the OPEC Fund for International Development through a loan agreement that was signed in 2005 for a total of $4.62 million.
According to the Songwe Airport Project Manager, Mr. George Asulumenye, including a feasibility study, administration costs and overall construction costs, more than USD 20 million had been spent on the project.
The completed airport will include an extensive baggage handling system and a 3,300 meter runway as well as state-of-the-art meteorology and communication equipment.
“The plan of the Government in establishing this project is to improve the efficiency and safety of air traffic throughout the country,” said Mr. Asulumenye.
At this time, the facility has been designed to handle aircraft only as large as a B737, which means that once construction has been completed and the site becomes operational, it will be able to accommodate light aircrafts that are capable of transporting between 600 and 800 passengers per year.
However, future upgrades to the airport will help to increase the passenger loads and, subsequently, the visitors to the area.