“Build 3 kilometres of rail or road you will only go 3 kilometres but 3 kilometres of runway will go anywhere.” This was brought to the fore by the Regional Director of ADB Safegate Alexander Herring during the Africa Tomorrow Virtual Conference on Hospitality, Tourism and Travel.

This is particularly true with the ultra-modern aircraft that can fly for long distances off short runways. But what is the critical length of an international airport runway and what is the longest runway in Africa and how long is it?

Unlike other regions Africa is blessed with excess land use for airports development and the continent has some of the longest runways in the aviation industry. Laws of physics will tell us that aircraft need runway to accelerate to achieve lift to take off and the bigger it is the longer and the runway is needed.

Pilot and African aviation analyst Derek Nseko said “long runways have a number of purposes that range from flexibility to allowing different aircraft types to land and very useful in case of emergencies or bad weather”.

Upington International Airport. Image ACSA

The longest runway in Africa must be Upington, it’s a 16000ft stretch and its thought to be an alternative landing site for space shuttle, i have landed there many times in my career, added Alex MacPhail, Pilot and YouTube host.


Upington Airport in South Africa is recorded as having the longest runway in Africa. Managed by the Airports Company of South Africa, the airport received international status in 1993 and currently handles a maximum of 60 000 passengers per annum. Runway 17/35 was built in 1976 and accommodates a Boeing 747 aircraft or equivalent.

Africa’s Top 5 longest runways (based on our research)

  1. Upington International Airport, South Africa 4900 meters.

2. Bole International Airport, Ethiopia 4725 meters.

2. R.G Mugabe International Airport(Harare), Zimbabwe 4725 meters.

4. Ndjili International Airport, Democratic Republic of Congo 4700 meters.

5. Hwange National Park Airport, Zimbabwe 4600 meters.

Africa has some the longest runways in the world. Some of these runways are lagging behind world standards. In his parting words at during a session on Future Financing in Africa at Africa Tomorrow, Alexander Herring said, “Post Covid19 pandemic, Africa needs to make the airports better not bigger; better service delivery.”

#AfricanAirports #Runway #JustAfricanAviation

Copyright 2020 Just African Aviation Pty Ltd, Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source.

Have you landed on these runways before ? Let us know in the comments sections below of the longest runway you have landed on.

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