DOUALA, Littoral—Cracks in the runway, broken toilettes, malfunctioning jet bridges, untrustworthy scanners, outdated equipment: the Douala International airport was a wreck long before ongoing repairs, which forced the facility to close for three weeks.
As flights resumed early Tuesday, it emerged that the rehabilitation at the country’s busiest airport was the first in 40 years. Built around 1977, the Douala airport serves civil and military flights and has only a single runway.
Officials say recently completed works make up the first phase of rehabilitation. About 2.3 kilometers of the 2.8-kilometre-long and 45-meter-wide runway was repaved. Work will continue on the last 500m until 1 April.
Phase-two will tackle parking spaces, aprons (the paved areas where airplanes sit while not in use), passenger terminals and whatever is left from phase-one. Everything will cost about 30 billion francs.
Engineers worked day and night to meet the 21-day deadline for the reopening of the airport.
“The major challenge was to improve the airport and build a modern platform as envisage by the President of the Republic, to match international standards and obligations of the International Civil aviation Authority,” said Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o, the transport minister.
Koki Assoumou, the general manager of Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority, said the completed works will boost the confidence of airline companies in the Douala Airport.
A Pilot who flew the CamairCo’s MA 60 from Paris said the repaired runway will spare them the nightmare of landing, taking off and running in potholes, thus preventing tire malfunctions.
A DHL cargo plane was the first to touchdown at 3:30 am Tuesday. A Royal Air Maroc flight followed at 4:30 before a CamairCo MA60 landed at 9am.
During the closure, authorities rerouted all flights to the Nsimalen International Airport in Yaounde, forcing customers based in Douala to drive three to four hours for their flights and businesses that depend of the airport of also shutdown.
On Tuesday, life returned to the facility, located about 10 kilometers from the city centre.