"Ciskei's the limit", so the logo read on Ciskei'International Airline's Stationary.
Here's some history for you!
The airport was constructed in 1981 by Kunard Brothers from East London under the supervision of an American called Gary Morgan. Those boys made big loot. I mean a R28 million contract for 1981 was really something big.
President Lennox Sebe desperately wanted an airline. Particularly a jet service which could compete with SAA out of East London, and Transkei Airways out of Umtata. He simply had to be better than the Matanzimas who were operating a couple of King Airs and a HS 748 with "Highway Hennie". believe it or not, as one of the Commanders. Other Captain's included a really great guy called Tom Lawless. Yes, the good old days!
Negotiations started with John Morrison & Magnum Airlines, and Magnum's MD, Ms. Jenny Nathanson got seriously involved, but they could not provide a jet service, and Sebe wanted a jet. "A fast one". At a serious meeting held at the Presidential Office during the late part of May1987, Ms. Nathanson was informed that Magnum had no chance, and she left the meeting in tears.
Then in June 1987 came along the greatest conman of all times. (Yes, worse than "Conman Andrews") Another Yank, called John Robinson, who allegedly owned an Airline in Kenya called Africa International Airlines operating 5 Cargo Boeing 707's out of Nairobi. Sadly they did not exist, but "Ol President Lennox Sebe" believed every word Robinson told him, and in no time Robinson persuaded Sebe to part with a couple of million rands, and a 50/50 partnership was formed with Robinson having to supply the aircraft for the newly established Ciskei International (nogal) Airlines.
As Robinson had nothing and no credibility, (He lived at the Rand Club in JHB on credit card credit, and had an address at the World Trade Centre in London with no phone) he could'nt lease a decent airplane, so he called up a mate of his in the States (Denver), and together they took an old Convair 880 out of storage in the desert, serviced it a bit, flew it to Miami where it underwent another inspection, and eventually arrived in SA with an expired C of A, registered as N880C. No good for the transport of passengers though, as it was kitted out as a VIP transporter with double beds and golden taps, and as the story goes, once flew John Denver & Jefferson Airplane around the USA to their music concerts. An absolute dud for the newly formed Ciskei International Airways.
During the official opening of the airport, the Ciskei-ans were told to arrive at the airport "en masse" to welcome the "new airplane" and support their President, but unfortunately, the airplane never arrived. The Airline's directors, Laurie Kempster (Bean Counter Ex Magnum Airlines) Verity Wright (PRO Ex Magnum Airlines) & John Robinson were pacing up and down the terminal looking very sheepish and tried to hide away from a very persistent TV journalist who demanded to know where the airplane was.
So the opening of the airport turned into a fiasco with no airplane, which left Sebe furious. As the CofA had expired on the Convair 880, it was clear that that airplane would never fly. President Sebe kept on putting pressure on John Robinson and his crew to get the airline going, and eventually another Convair was leased from the USA. This time a Convair 990 with 120 pax seats. Things looked better, and Sebe was convinced that now they were on to something a great deal better!
The only problem was that it was also on the N register, and due to the inability of Robinson and his cronies to facilitate an operating license in terms of the bi-lateral agreements between SA & the Ciskei at the time, the machine never flew. Sebe kept on pumping money into a dead horse, and overnight Robinson & his cronies took what was left in the bank and ducked. So Ciskei International Airways, sadly came to its end.
The Convair 990 was eventually claimed by its legal owner in the USA, and was sold to a Spanish Operator, Spantex, which was really the only serious commercial operator of the Convairs globally. Spantex eventually also went broke.
For the rest, the 880 remained on the apron for about 8 years, running up huge parking fees, and eventually Billy Nel, an East London businessman, now MEC for Finance in the Eastern Cape Government, bought it for R1.00 and had it removed to his resort on the banks of the Bonza Bay River in East London where it remains to this day serving as a tea room.
The whereabouts of John Robinson these days are unknown. The last I heard, he was wanted by a number of Government people for questioning. The other former Board Directors, have their own businesses. One is in the liquer industry, and the other owns and operates a Travel Agency.
I hope they send people to the beautiful coastal resorts of the Eastern Cape.