A new plan to turn Plettenberg Bay into a regional aviation hub has got some heavyweight businessmen eyeing the crumbling runway.

The Bitou council is evaluating five bids of up to R224m to redevelop the airport.

While the setting may be spectacular, the same cannot be said of the airport’s facilities, including the rundown runway, apron and terminal building, which have for years been mired in local government inertia.

Previous development plans have come to naught, despite overtures from investors and upgrade requests from local pilots, among them businessmen.

The Sunday Times reports that the municipality’s airport development tender, issued this year, is the most promising to date.

It proposes the airport be run independently of the municipality, allowing the operator more freedom.

The tender document suggests the airport could potentially welcome 150 000 passengers a year by 2050 – more than quadruple the figure now.

‘Bitou Municipality has identified some gaps in Airports Company SA’s catchments, where a few local airports add valuable socioeconomic benefits to local communities to support the tourism industry and sustain local jobs,’ said the tender summary.

But to achieve its target, Bitou would need an investor with deep pockets to upgrade the airport to the level required by commercial licence conditions.

Two aviation bosses last week confirmed their potential interest, but expressed reservations.

Full Sunday Times report