After several years in business limbo, Uganda Air Cargo Corporation is set to widen its horizons.
The corporation recently acquired two Y-12 aircraft worth $7 million from China, and plans to use them on passenger flights.
And just last year, it revamped its cargo services.
General manager Fred Guyina Kyankya told The EastAfrican last week that the corporation is eyeing the growing market for chartered passenger flights to East African destinations and to the Great Lakes regions.
“We won’t do scheduled flights — not in the immediate future. But there is particular need for these services, particularly by the Ministry of Defence and the government,” he said.
However, the firm, whose operations have mainly been restricted to cargo haulage, is yet to get the greenlight from the Civil Aviation Authority to start passenger flights.
“They are in the final process of securing a licence for passenger services. They still have to clarify a few technical issues,” said Vianney Luggya, the authority’s public relations officer.
Indeed, Mr Kyankya said the company had some “operational specifications” to sort out before the regulator can renew the licence.
The airline’s core business is cargo, although it had a licence to operate passenger flights in the early 1990 when the charter flights market was still new.
But the licence expired, hence and this move to renew it.
Though the corporation has acquired two aircraft to move into the competitive passenger flights business, it is yet to grow its cargo fleet, which comprise a single aircraft — a 23-tonne payload Hercules Lock Heed C-130.
Officials say there are plans to expand this arm of the business, although they did not indicate a timeline.
“Our thrust will continue to be cargo haul, because it’s much more stable. We know there is competition in passenger business but the sector is also growing. We have one plane for cargo and there are plans for expansion,” an official said.
UACC is the aviation arm of the Ministry of Defence. Being government owned, it is the de facto carrier of government officials and the army.
The corporation has been in existence since 1994, when it was established by an Act of Parliament.
However, it started out in 1981 as Uganda Air Cargo Ltd.
The Act establishing the corporation allowed it to establish, provide and operate safe, efficient, adequate, economical and properly coordinated air transport services within and outside the country.
This is for cargo, passenger, chartered passenger flights, air mail services and flight training.
In 2004, the company’s sole plane that had been grounded since 2001 was taken to a South African maintenance facility for repairs. It was returned in 2007.
The plane is now operating on a charter basis for cargo movement to the region — including Somalia, Congo and South Africa.
With the acquisition of the two 19-seater aircraft, the corporation will beef up its uptake of business from cargo to passenger.
Also, it will handle passenger service emergencies such as moving refugees.
UACC’s fleet is specialised. It is suited to land and take off where bigger carriers cannot.
This gives it an edge in the regional market.
For instance, the planes can land on murrum surfaces and need only 1,200 metres of runway to land or take off, where others require 3,000 metres.