CAA to revive Gulu runway operations

Byandala waves the national flag to officially open the new runway as other dignitaries and CAA officials look on last week. (Photo by Paul Tentena)

GULU, NORTHERN UGANDA – Uganda is to build a new airport complex  in the north to stimulate growth of tourism, trade and agriculture, in an area which experienced over 20 years of insecurity due to the Kony rebel insurgency.

A new 3.1 kilometre runway at Gulu Airport, (the second largest airport in the country), was launched last week  by works and transport minister Abraham Byandala.

Entebbe International Airport is the largest airport in Uganda with a runway measuring 3.7km long.

Byandala said the asphalt runway surface airport, with a width of 45meters, was constructed in a phased approach at Ush10 billion (about $4 million).

He said: “It is the first phase of the project. The total project cost is estimated at $59million.”

“In the future, we shall upgrade this airport to international standards with larger passenger terminal building, fire and rescue services infrastructure, put runway lights, new car park, access roads, air navigation and traffic control facilities and cargo operations infrastructure,” he said.

Byandala said the government is looking for about $45million to upgrade the aeronautical and other critical infrastructure at Gulu airport to international level.

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is also carrying out a study that will guide the country’s air transport infrastructure development. It controls currently two airports and a number of aerodromes.

Byandala said, “The airport master plan and engineering designs are complete but will be reviewed by the national aviation master plan now under study.”

Eng. John Kagoro, the CAA Director Airports and Aviation Security said the airport can land a Boeing 767 aircraft of about 160 tonnes.  A 767 Boeing aircraft carries between 200 and 300 passengers.

According to Kagoro,  Gulu Airport, first operated as an aerodrome in , but later was allowed to dilapidate runway cracking.

A master plan and detailed pavement design was completed in 2011 by Ms. Gauff- Gibb Consortium Consultants to upgrade the airport to Class 4E as one of the international airports of Uganda.

Kagoro said a cost estimate of the work was made to upgrade and expand the airport by rehabilitating runway, putting new runway shoulders, a new taxiway system, new apron which is paved, airfield ground lighting and fencing.

He said before the upgrade, the runway had longitudinal, transverse and alligator cracks in some sections.

“The cracks were wide enough for the growth of grass in effect allowing water to have a presence in the pavement, which would gain access to the lower layers thus further weakening the structural strength of the pavement,” Kagoro said.

Rama Makuza, the CAA Managing Director said Gulu airport had considerable traffic during the days of Uganda Airlines and hoped that with the intended revival of Uganda airlines, the airport will be busy again.