Air Tanzania in $500m new aircraft plan to stabilise operations

Sunday November 20 2011



An Air Tanzania airplane. Photo/FILE

An Air Tanzania airplane. Photo/FILE 

By HELLEN NACHILONGO AND DORITHY NDETEKELA

Tanzania is seeking $500 million to purchase new medium and long range aircraft to stabilise the operations of the ailing national carrier and increase its flights to domestic and international destinations.

The government said the financing of Air Tanzania Company Ltd (ATCL) was being discussed with the aim of purchasing eight new aircraft.

Export Development Canada (EDC) has already agreed to support ATCL, and discussions with experts from Canada to acquire the aircraft will be held starting November 21.

The company intends to buy both second hand and brand new aircraft arguing that buying new planes only would too expensive.

The managing director and chief executive officer of ATCL, Paulo Chizi, said the airline needed nine planes to operate consistently.

The company had not made any orders for the new planes because the firm had just resumed operations and “it was too early to enter into partnership with other companies.”

At the moment, the company has only two aircraft, with one in operation and the other undergoing maintenance.

The delegation from Canada will comprise engineers and aviation experts.

The experts will assess the airline’s five-year strategic plan with a view to helping the airline acquire financing.

Once the EDC delegation is satisfied with the plan, it will help acquire a long-term loan to purchase planes from Canada’s aircraft and trains manufacturer, Bombardier.

“This will enable ATCL to buy the planes by February 2012 from Bombardier,” said Mr Chizi.

Experts say that ATCL should prefer to buy ATR planes rather than Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) due to the fact that ATR planes are fuel efficient.

Canadian High Commissioner to Tanzania Robert Orr said it was a big step for ATCL to be back in business and “honourable for the management to restart the operations of the company that was half dead for four years.”

“For the efforts ATCL has shown, I promise to connect it with other companies dealing in air transportation so it can accomplish its strategic plan,” said Mr Orr.

The firm expects to fly domestic routes to various regions, including Kigoma, Tabora and Mbeya.

After operating for one month, it would expand its routes to Arusha, Zanzibar, Bukoba, Dodoma and Shinyanga.

 Rivals to ATCL such as Precision Air, Fly 540, Kenya Airways, and Coastal Aviation have benefited from the vacuum created by the national carrier in Tanzania’s fast growing aviation market. Mr Chizi told The EastAfrican that in the next five years, the firm expects to have at least 11 aircraft operating.

“The company is now planning to deploy small capacity jet aircraft that will be operating locally, while medium-sized jets are expected to operate in the region before acquiring wide body aircraft for international operations,” said ATCL.

ATCL has signed a code share with Jetlink Express, a Kenyan firm that flies on the Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza routes.