The airport was founded in 1952 as "Jan Smuts Airport", two years after his death, near the town of Kempton Park on the East Rand.
It displaced the "Palmietfontein International Airport", which had handled European flights since 1945. Palmietfontein Airport was a wartime air force base which was converted to a temporary airport to serve Johannesburg whilst the new airport, Jan Smuts Airport (now OR Tambo International Airport), was being built. The airport serving Johannesburg at the time, Rand Airport, was unable to accommodate the size of aircraft to be operated on a new service to Britain. In 1948, South African Airways moved its terminal to Palmietfontein Airport.
Several historical flights terminated at Palmietfontein Airport. A Qantas Airways Avro Lancastrian completed an unprecedented flight from Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport in Australia to Palmietfontein, landing on 20 November 1948 at 15h15, and having been in the air a total of 41 hours and 52 minutes at an average speed of 210 mph (180 kn; 340 km/h). En-route stops were made at Perth, Cocos Islands and Mauritius. The objective, to establish viable air links between South Africa and Australia, had been accomplished.
It was used as a test airport for the Concorde during the 1970s, to determine how the aircraft would perform while taking off and landing at high altitude. During the 1980s, many countries stopped trading with South Africa because of the United Nation sanctions imposed against South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, and many international airlines had to stop flying to the airport. These sanctions also resulted in South African Airways being refused rights to fly over most African countries, and in addition to this the risk of flying over some African countries was emphasised by the shooting down of two passenger aircraft over Rhodesia (Air Rhodesia Flight 825 and 827),forcing them to fly around the "bulge" of Africa. This required specially-modified aircraft like the Boeing 747-SP. Following the ending of apartheid, the airport's name, and that of other international airports in South Africa, were changed and these restrictions were lifted.
The airport overtook Cairo International Airport in 1996 as the busiest airport in Africa and is the fourth-busiest airport in the Africa–Middle East region after Dubai International Airport, Doha International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport. In fiscal year 2010, the airport handled 8.82 million departing passengers.
On 26 November 2006, the airport became the first in Africa to host the Airbus A380. The aircraft landed in Johannesburg on its way to Sydney via the South Pole on a test flight.
The airport was renamed Johannesburg International Airport in 1994 when the newly reformed South African government implemented a national policy of not naming airports after politicians. The policy was however reversed later, and the airport renamed again on 27 October 2006 after Oliver Tambo, a former President of the African National Congress.
Taken from: O. R. Tambo International Airport From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O._R._Tambo_International_Airport
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- Busiest Airports in Africa [Archive] – PPRuNe Forums. Pprune.org.
- Airports Company South Africa Annual Report – Part I
- Oliver R Tambo (Johannesburg) International Airport (JNB/FAJS). Airport Technology (15 June 2011).