Tanzania will finally take delivery of its first Dreamliner aircraft this coming Friday July 6, following two intense years of planning the revival of the national carrier Air Tanzania.
The aircraft, christened Kilimanjaro-Hapa kazi tu, successfully underwent its maiden runway test flight at the Paine field in Seattle, Washington state. It was spotted at the Paine field undergoing pre-delivery tests on Monday.
The aircraft's delivery will signal a major shift in Tanzania's aviation sector that will see the national career start operating intercontinental flights later this September, with a maiden flight to Mumbai.
This is a major boost to the fortunes of the carrier, revived barely two years ago, as it seeks to play a bigger role in the regional aviation market dominated by Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda.
Last week, the airline's commercial and business development director Patrick Ndekana said that the Dreamliner aircraft will fly to Mumbai thrice a week starting September, its first route outside the continent.
In March, Air Tanzania announced that the 787 Dreamliner will be its flagship as it renews and grows its fleet.
The fleet improvement programme, which The EastAfrican has seen, includes the purchasing of six aircraft. These include three Bombardier DASH8 Q400, two of which were delivered in September 2016, and now use for domestic routes between Dar es Salaam and the Comoros islands, Mwanza, Kigoma and Mtwara.
It also received one Bombardier DASH8 Q400 in June last year. The improvement plan shows that by July this year, Air Tanzania will be operating a fleet of seven aircraft as it has been operating one Bombardier DASH8 Q300 since 2011.
“We aim to establish our long-haul capability by starting flights to Europe, Asia and the US in the short term and the 787 Dreamliner is the perfect aircraft to achieve this ambition,” chief executive officer Ladislaus Matindi said.
More Bombardier CS300
The airline will also receive two more new Bombardier CS300 after the Tanzania Government Flight Agency finalised purchase agreements with US manufacturer Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Canada's Bombardier Inc.
Two years ago Tanzania decided to develop a specific programme for revamping its national carrier which included purchasing of six new aircraft between 2016 and 2018, paying off debts, provision of startup capital, improvement and modernisation of business systems.
Mr Matindi said that the Bombardier C300s will be used to open up to six regional routes in southern and West Africa as the airline tries to capture a share of these markets.
“We are looking at South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe and in the future expanding to West Africa with Ghana and Nigeria. We will however use the Dreamliner for intercontinental routes to China and India initially, followed by Europe in the second phase. We are already in talks with Boeing and the government to have a second delivery of the same aircraft in the near future,” Mr Matindi said.
Air Tanzania is also expecting to undergo the Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification before the end of July, which will enable it enter into commercial partnerships with other operators as it seeks to grow its revenue via code share agreements.
The International Air Transport Association's IOSA is an evaluation system designed to test the operational management and control systems of an airline, putting it at par with the international aviation standards.
“We already have a strong business plan and given that we are a great tourism destination, we believe that we will have the right mix of passenger numbers and capacity to support this plan,” Mr Matindi said.
On Tanzania’s domestic routes, Air Tanzania will compete with Kenya Airways which partly owns Precision Air and the troubled Fastjet.
The latter two airlines operate domestic Tanzanian routes between Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya and Zanzibar. Fastjet also flies to Southern Africa from Dar es Salaam with South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe featuring on its regional routes.