The History
of OR Tambo International Airport

Johannesburg airport history, started with the Rand Airport (IATA = QRA : ICAO = FAGM) being built in the 1920’s as the original airport to serve Johannesburg’s growing air traffic needs, was unable to accommodate larger planes being used on a new service to Britain in the 1940’s, resulting in plans being made to move, and build a new airport.

The Palmietfontein Airport, which was a wartime airforce base south-east of Johannesburg, was converted into a temporary airport, whilst the new airport, Jan Smuts Airport (IATA = JNB, ICAO = FAJS, now OR Tambo International Airport), was being built. European flights were handled here from 1945.
Palmietfontein was subsequently converted into a motor racetrack in 1956, and the township of Thokoza, together with Katlehong, which form the second biggest black township after Soweto, was later established on the site in 1973.
Parts of the original runway are still visible on Google Earth.

Jan Smuts Airport, which was named after the prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, South African Prime Minister, military leader and philosopher - Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts, became operational in 1952.

After implementing a policy of not naming airports after politicians, the new ANC led South African Government renamed the airport Johannesburg International in 1994, but after rescinding this policy in 2006, the airport was once again renamed – this time after Oliver Tambo, the former President of the African National Congress.

Major redevelopment took place over the last few years, which was necessary due to the airport becoming a major hub for southern hemisphere air travel, and is today, a contemporary and proficient airport.

Incidently, Rand Airport is still a busy airport that has a number of aircraft maintenance organizations, flying schools, air charter operators as well as car hire and pilot shops.
The architecture of the terminal building is of the early Modern Movement – a time when young architects were revolutionising Johannesburg's skyline!
The South African Airways Museum Society has a number of aircraft on display that have been donated to the society - amidst the elegant forms and clean lines of the architecture.














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