The client requested a space/building to accommodate the training facility for pilots. This building should also have all the necessary rooms and additional services to support the facility. Training halls, lecture rooms, and the brief and de-briefing rooms were part of this complex. In this facility, the pilots are getting training in the theory and practical aspects.

What was the brief to the architect?

The client’s brief was to provide a building, housing two mobile training units, and two static training units with their supporting rooms around and close by. The provision of lecturing rooms, a computer room, board rooms, a cafeteria, and open plan offices was included in the brief. The building should fit in with the other existing buildings on the site and also designed to allow the maximum natural light into the main core of the building.

Was the project envisaged in steel from the start? If not – why was it built in steel in the end?

Yes, the original design was definitely in steel. The flexibility of steel was the only answer to the curved structure of the building. The curved outline of the building simulates the hull form of an aeroplane. The curved spaces inside the building allow for the correct height in the centre of the building to accommodate the total envelope of the simulators to move freely in all directions. Both sides the building is lower to host the training rooms and other service rooms to support the operation of the simulators.

Steelwork contractor interview:

The roof structure consists of a few steel portal frames. These frames are curved trellis trusses, about 900mm deep. The space between the roof sheets and the curved ceiling was used for services like HVAC, Electrical trays, fire detection, IT cables and data lines. The ceiling follows the curved trusses and consists of different layers of material to achieve the necessary insolation towards the control of the heat gain and also for sound absorption. The ceiling is a suspended ceiling with stainless steel, 20×20 mm mentis grid, then a 40mm thick black cineplex insulation batting with fibre cement ceiling boards on top of that and then fixed to the underside of the curved trellis trusses.

Were there any challenges in the fabrication of the project from the engineer’s design – if yes, please tell? Tell more about the fabrication and erection process if it was complex, difficult, innovative etc.

Yes, due to the size of the steel portal frame it had to be manufactured in four parts to ease the transport and also the erection of the frames. The rolling of the roof sheets was very difficult and a complexed operation.  The rolling of the sheets was done on site and had to be 100% accurate to follow the curve of the steel frame.

What is special/ unusual/ innovative/ aesthetic about the steelwork/cladding in this project?

The brown built roof sheets followed the curved steel trusses and were also extended along the curved structure downwards to form at the time the wall cladding. The roof sheets rapped the building to enhance the feeling of an aeroplane. 

As Ferro Eleganza having built all the previous buildings (Except for building 1) it was a great privilege to be part of this project once again.

The iconic curved buildings housing the Com Air Flight simulators have become a landmark known by all across the R21 from OR Tambo International airport.

These beautifully shaped buildings based on the shape of a large aircraft could only have been done by the use of steel. 

The structure consists of curved CHS pipe lattice trusses and lipped channel sheeting support rails. Where the structure is closed with ceilings the truss sections are made out of Hot Rolled angle sections in order to save costs for the client. Once the steel becomes exposed again it changes back to CHS pipes.

Both gable ends of the building are complete glass and steel facades. Comprising of Shaped “Plate Girder Fins” and Large RHS members between carrying the glass. Here much effort was required as no bolts were allowed at the connections so as to keep the look and not to clash with the glass.

This was accomplished by using locating lugs inside the sections and then careful site welding and polishing to create the required finish and look.

The erection of this building was a great challenge in its self.

Due to the curved shape of the trusses and the fact that they are only connected to the concrete bases with a single Pin on both ends these trusses cannot stand on their own.

Therefore the entire truss was assembled on the ground and then using two mobile cranes the first two trusses were lifted into position and then held there while the bracing and purlins were installed so that the structure could stand on its own.

Another challenge has always been the link tunnels between the buildings. These are narrow tunnels that give the idea of the tail end of the aeroplane.

 Here the curved pipes needed to be rolled at much smaller radiuses and much effort was needed to ensure that the steel structure could receive the curved sheeting.

To crank the sheeting to the correct radius and then fit it to the steel structure required much effort and the combined efforts of Steel and Sheeting Contractor together.

It was a great challenge to create what the architect envisioned, to accomplish what the Engineer required, and produce this beautiful building that could only have been done with steel.

The roof super-structure radiated from the internal circular ring beam to the oval-shape external ring beam using a combination of gusseted rafters for the shorter spans to I beam/angle-iron type trusses for the longer sections.

Completion date of steelwork June 2018
Completion date of full project September 2018
Tons of structural steel used 70 Tons
Structural profiles used CHS, H/R Sections, C/R Lipped Channel
Nominator Ferro Eleganza (Pty) Ltd
Steelwork Contractor Ferro Eleganza (Pty) Ltd
Steel Erector Ferro Eleganza (Pty) Ltd
Corrosion Protection
Paintwork Contractor
Industrial Painting Services (Pty) Ltd
Cladding and Roofing Global Roofing Solutions
Architects WMS Architects

If you were a part of this project, and your company details are incorrect or missing – please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.