Ethiopian set to buy four B777 freighters

Ethiopian Boeing
Ethiopian Boeing
Ethiopian Boeing
Ethiopian Boeing

– AFRAA blames African governments for not liberalising African skies for African carriers, reports Kaleyesus Bekele from Dar es Salam, Tanzania – Reporter

The Ethiopian Airlines is concluding a deal with the US aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, for the purchase of four state-of-the art Boeing 777 freighter aircraft.

A senior official of Ethiopian told The Reporter that the management of Ethiopian and executives of Boeing have been negotiating for almost a year for the purchase of the new aircraft. The official said the two parties will announce the deal soon.

A representative of Boeing has confirmed the new deal. The representative said the agreement will be signed in the coming few weeks. The growing demand for cargo flight services prompted Ethiopian to place orders for the new B777 jetliners.  Recently Ethiopian signed a lease agreement with GECAS for two B777 aircraft to be delivered in September 2012. The lease agreement for the two B777 is ten years.

The B777 freighter aircraft has the capacity to haul 100 tons of cargo at a time. The catalogue price of the aircraft is 260 million dollars. Boeing will deliver the four aircraft after three years.

With six freighter aircraft (two B757-200F, two B747s and two MD 11s) Ethiopian has the largest cargo fleet in Africa. When the two leased B777 arrive, Ethiopian will sell one of the MD 11 it owns and return the other leased MD11. And when the first two B777 are delivered after three years Ethiopian will return the two leased B747s to Southern Air, the American leasing company.

In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Ethiopian cargo traffic has grown by 20 percent to 160,000 tons when compared to the previous fiscal year. The growing horticulture and meat exports have significantly contributed to the surge in cargo traffic.

At the 17th the African Aviation and Allied Business Conference held from August 28 to 30 in Darses Salaam, aviation authorirties, airline executives and representatives of IATA (International Air Transport Association) and ICAO International Civil Aviation Organisation, Boeing and Bombardier have expressed their appreciation to the fast-growing airline.

Mesfin Tasew, chief operating officer of Ethiopian, who made a presentation at the meeting, explained the growth the national flag carrier is registering. Mesfin was asked by participants if Ethiopian was receiving support from the Ethiopian government. Mesfin outrightly said that the airline does not get any financial support from the government. “Our government has priorities like schools, hospitals and other basic social services and does not have the luxury to invest in the airline. I want to stress this. We do not get a penny from the government. The airline generates revenue from its operations and invests in itself,” Mesfin said. Mesfin received a round of applause from the audience. The 17th Aviation and Allied business conference held at the Kilimanjaro Hotel Kembeski attracted more than 200 delegates.

The African Airline Association (AFRAA) took advantage of the aviation conference in Dar es Salaam to expose once again the lack of implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration, besides highlighting on behalf of their members, the pressing issues of investments in the aviation infrastructure and the brain-drain of highly-qualified professionals to particularly the Gulf region.

The Yamoussoukro agreement, signed in 1999, was due to have been fully operationalized by 2002, but now, nine years later, several African Union (AU) member states still have not made an effort to implement its provisions. AFRAA’s Secretary General Elijah Chingosho also spoke on taxation, another deterrent to the growth of aviation.

The conference was officially opened by Tanzanian President Mr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and brought together over 200 participants, mainly from the region, but also further abroad. Regulatory staff had come alongside government delegations, representatives of a number of African airlines, and from ICAO, IATA, and the FAA. The theme of the meeting, “Air Transport in Africa – Strengthening Leadership, Sustaining Growth,” discussed since Monday this week a range of pressing issues, among them the failure of governments to promote inter-Africa air traffic, while opening their skies to foreign airlines.