Rand Airport

Rand Airport (IATA: QRA, ICAO: FAGM) is an airport in Germiston, South Africa. It was constructed in the 1920s as the main airport for Johannesburg, but the city outgrew it and replaced the airport with Palmietfontein Airport in the late 1940s (itself replaced by Jan Smuts International Airport in the 1950s).

Rand Airport
Rand Airport Control Tower landside.JPG
Rand Airport Control Tower from landside
Airport typePublic
OperatorRand Airport Management Company (Pty) Ltd.
LocationGermiston, Gauteng
Elevation AMSL1,671 m / 5,482 ft
Coordinates26°14′33″S 028°09′04″E / 26.24250°S 28.15111°E / -26.24250; 28.15111Coordinates: 26°14′33″S 028°09′04″E / 26.24250°S 28.15111°E / -26.24250; 28.15111
QRA is located in Greater Johannesburg
Location in the Johannesburg area
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11/29 5,617 1,712 Asphalt
17/35 4,898 1,493 Asphalt


Before World War IIEdit

In 1917, Major Allister Miller landed on Germiston Golf Course and thought the area close by would be suitable as an airfield due to its location near to Johannesburg, the landmark of Victoria Lake and the well-drained land.[1]: 1034  But it would take until February 1929, for the three interested parties to agree for 160 hectares (400 acres) of land to be set aside for what was called the Germiston Public Aerodrome.[1]: 1034  The three parties were the Germiston Town Council, Elandsfontein Estate Company and the Rand Refinery.[1]: 1034  Later that year, the Germiston Town Council gained full control and further plans were developed for the aerodrome when Imperial Airways was thinking of adding South Africa to their flight schedules.[1]: 1035  After the involvement of the South African government, they were able to convince the airline that Johannesburg, with its mining and industry, should be their base rather than Cape Town, with Rand Refinery seeking to export its refined gold by air.[1]: 1035 

Imperial Airways received a £400,000 (equivalent to £27,200,000 in 2021) subsidy from both the South African and UK governments over five years.[1]: 1036  In November 1929, the Germiston Town Council bought a further 280 ha (700 acres) of land for £14,000, after permission was given by the Mining Commissioner, as the land was owned by the Simmer and Jack mine with the understanding that the land could be reacquired as a mining area.[1]: 1035  In order to proceed with the development, the Johannesburg and Germiston Town Councils formed a joint committee on 14 November 1930 and £85,000 (equivalent to £5,774,000 in 2021) was set aside for infrastructure.[1]: 1036  This would consist of a large and small hangar, administrative buildings, a workshop, floodlights and cottages.[1]: 1036 

The airport was officially opened on 21 December 1931[2] by the Governor-General Earl of Clarendon and owned jointly by the Germiston and Johannesburg Town Councils.[1]: 1036  In 1932, Captain Roy Makepeace became its manager.[1]: 1036  It became the headquarters of South African Airways (SAA) when the airline's head office was moved from Durban to Rand Airport on 1 July 1935.[3] By 1938, the development costs had reached £200,000 (equivalent to £13,600,000 in 2021) and losses of £20,000 (equivalent to £1,359,000 in 2021), a cost the Germiston Town Council could no longer afford and so sold its share to the Johannesburg City Council for £106,498, with 84 hectares (207 acres) of land not used resold to the former and land provided for a future highway to connect to the Heidelberg road.[1]: 1036  The final transfer took place in 1944.[1]: 1036 

In early 1939, the Union Defence Force took control of Rand Airport and by May 1940, all commercial flights ended.[1]: 1037  The training schools based there trained pilots for the war effort and the facilities were extended with fifteen additional hangars built.[1]: 1037  By 1944, a limited number of internal commercial flights resumed from the airport.[1]: 1037 

After World War IIEdit

SAA moved its headquarters to Palmietfontein Airport in 1948 because of runway length constraints. Nevertheless, Rand Airport grew quickly after World War II ended because of the influx of former air force pilots. In 1975, with 133 135 recorded aircraft movements, Rand Airport was the busiest airport in the southern hemisphere.[4]

The ownership of the airport originally consisted of 23 private shareholders and there has been very little change. Most of the re-sales have been taken up by existing owners under new company names so there has been a small increase to the current 25 owners, plus the Mayondi BEE consortium and Ekurhuleni Town Council.[2]

Rand Airport from the observation deck
The Lebombo, a retired Boeing 747 from South Africa Airways, on display at the SAA Museum
Boeing 747SP at the South African Airways Museum Society situated near the threshold of Runway 29
de Havilland Dove and Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar on display at the South African Airways Museum Society at Rand Airport

Rand Airport todayEdit

Today, the airport hosts air charter operators, flying schools and a number of aircraft maintenance organisations, as well other aviation-related enterprises.[5] Charter operator Phoebus Apollo Aviation has its headquarters at Rand; the airport is also home to the Flying Lions Aerobatic Team.

South African Airways donated a Boeing 747-200 and a Boeing 747SP to the South African Airways Museum Society which are on display at the airport. The museum also owns a Boeing 737-200, two DC-4s, a DC-3, Vickers Viking, Lockheed Lodestar, Lockheed L1649 Starliner, DH Dove and numerous other exhibits. The airport also hosts an annual air show.[6] Aircraft General Spares (Pty)Ltd was started in November 2018, they supply parts to the light aircraft Industry. Situated in building B7.

Airlines and destinationsEdit

Today, all scheduled flights operate at the nearby O. R. Tambo International Airport.

Hot and high conditionsEdit

Rand Airport is notorious for its hot and high conditions and relatively short runways. Situated at an altitude of 1,680 metres (5,510 ft) above sea level, the density altitude is as high as 2,590 metres (8,500 ft) when the outside air temperature (OAT) is 30 °C. Special consideration must be given to flight planning in the summer when the ambient temperature is that high; there have been many accidents at this airfield as a result of reduced aircraft performance under these extreme conditions. A compounding factor is the lack of forced landing fields or areas, as the airport is surrounded by urban sprawl.

Notable accidents and incidentsEdit

  • On 6 October 1970 at about 7:10 am, Douglas DC-3 registration ZS-DKR en route for Orapa, Botswana crashed as it attempted to return to Rand Airport after the left engine failed just after take-off. There were two crew and ten passengers aboard. The Captain and two passengers subsequently died of injuries. The aircraft was completely burnt-out after impact.[7][8][9][10]
  • On 2 August 1995, an Antonov An-2 on a cargo flight from Rand airport to Jamba, Angola, crashed shortly after takeoff killing all three persons on board. The accident was attributed to the cargo which was not properly secured and shifted during the initial climb out, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable.[11]
  • On 6 December 1999 a Piper PA-31-350 ZS-OJY crashed shortly after takeoff after suffering an engine failure. All ten people on board were killed.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Shorten, John R. (1970). The Johannesburg Saga. Johannesburg: John R. Shorten Pty Ltd. p. 1159.
  2. ^ a b Rand Airport, About Us at the Wayback Machine (archived 2010-03-06)
  3. ^ "History". South African Airways Museum Society. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  4. ^ Nel, Elizabeth Johanna (6 September 2012). The development of a strategic marketing plan for Rand Airport (M.Comm). University of Johannesburg. hdl:10210/7106.
  5. ^ "Companies on Airport". Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  6. ^ "What's New". Archived from the original on 6 March 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  7. ^ The Star. Johannesburg. 6 October 1970. p. 1. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ The Star. Johannesburg. 11 January 1971. p. 1. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ The Star. Johannesburg. 30 March 1971. p. 5. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Rand Daily Mail. 7 October 1970. p. 1. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Antonov 2R RA-05708 Johannesburg-Randgermiston Airport (QRA)". aviation-safety.net.
  12. ^ "IAD00WA011". www.ntsb.gov. Retrieved 2 May 2021.

External linksEdit