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Palmietfontein Airport

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Title: Palmietfontein Airport  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: South African Airways, List of defunct international airports, History of South Africa
Collection: Airports in Johannesburg, Defunct Airports, History of South Africa
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Palmietfontein Airport

Palmietfontein Airport was an airport situated to the south of Johannesburg, South Africa, in the mid-1940s to early 1950s.


  • History 1
  • Airport layout 2
  • Aircraft types that operated to and from Palmietfontein 3
  • Accidents and Incidents 4
    • Accidents at the airport 4.1
    • Aircraft bound to or from Palmietfontein 4.2
  • Palmietfontein today 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Palmietfontein Airport was a wartime air force base which was converted to a temporary airport to serve Johannesburg whilst the new airport, Jan Smuts Airport (now OR Tambo International Airport), was being built. The airport serving Johannesburg at the time, Rand Airport, was unable to accommodate the size of aircraft to be operated on a new service to Britain. In 1948, South African Airways moved its terminal to Palmietfontein Airport.

Several historical flights terminated at Palmietfontein Airport. A Qantas Airways Avro Lancastrian completed an unprecedented flight from Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport in Australia to Palmietfontein, landing on 20 November 1948 at 15h15, and having been in the air a total of 41 hours and 52 minutes at an average speed of 210 miles per hour. En route stops were made at Perth, Cocos Islands and Mauritius. The objective, to establish viable air links between South Africa and Australia, had been accomplished.[1] The world’s first passenger jet service took place on 3 May 1952 when a BOAC Comet 1 landed at Palmietfontein on a flight from the UK.[2] [3]

Newspaper article published in The Star of 3 May 1952 regarding the world's first commercial jet flight which took place from London to Palmietfontein Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Airport layout

There were three runways, the relative positions of which formed a triangle. Runway 17/35 was the longest, being 6,000 ft long (1,800 m) and 180 ft wide (55 m). Runway 04/22 was 4,500 ft in length (1,400 m) and runway 13/31 was 4,950 ft long (1,510 m). Both 17/35 and 04/22 were tarred; 13/31 was grass. The apron and control tower were situated to the west of runway 04/22. The airport elevation was given as 5,107 ft amsl (above mean sea level) (1,557 m). The information is derived from an old map and airport layout diagram courtesy of E. Du Plessis.[4]

Alt text
Airport layout circa. 1950

Aircraft types that operated to and from Palmietfontein

Accidents and Incidents

Accidents at the airport

  • On 5 January 1948, a Lockheed 18-08-01 Lodestar, ZS-ASW, was damaged beyond repair when it struck a water drain after running off the runway during the landing rollout.[7]

Aircraft bound to or from Palmietfontein

Palmietfontein today

Palmietfontein was transformed into a motor racing circuit for the 1956 Rand Grand Prix, which was won by Peter Whitehead.[10] The township of Thokoza was eventually established on the site, although parts of the original runway are still visible on Google Earth to this day.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Huge Crowd To Greet Comet On Rand, Aviation Correspondent, The Star, Johannesburg, 3 May 1952, accessed at the Johannesburg Public Library 3 April 2013
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Galpin, Darren. "Palmietfontein". GEL Motorsport Information Page. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 

External links

  • Gooney Bird's Blog
  • Pictures of Palmietfontein by Etienne Du Plessis
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