With just one plane in service, Air Zimbabwe is keen to get its newly delivered Embraer ERJ145 in the air as soon as possible. Delivered yesterday, the plane will go into service within the next three weeks, the airline says.
But beyond its decimated fleet, it is a long-haul flight to recovery for Air Zimbabwe; the airline must overcome a poor reputation with travellers, get government to take over its $380 million debt, and find an investor daring enough to agree to a joint venture.
For now, the airline says the light Brazilian-made plane is just what it needs; it is widely used for short hops due to its reputation for efficiency, a better option than the larger wide-bodied aircraft initially ordered under the hazy Zimbabwe Airways deal.
“The 50-seater jet is expected to go through the local registration process as well as all mandatory checks, tests and certification before it enters into service within the next 21 days,” Air Zimbabwe said in a statement after the plane’s delivery from the United States.
“All crew and engineers licensed for the aircraft have been drawn from within the current human capital pool, a sign of the high level of competent skills available in Zimbabwe.”
Two incidents within two-days of each other involving Air Zimbabwe’s current sole working plane, the Boeing 767-200ER, shed stark light on the airline’s dire need for more planes.
An “engine surge” on lift-off from OR Tambo on Sunday night, which followed a bird-strike in Bulawayo just two days earlier, forced the airline to suspend flights.
Air Zimbabwe said the Embraer would be key to its strategic turnaround plan (STP). The airline says it needs smaller planes more than expensive, bigger ones.
“The company also requires to procure the right sized equipment for the current and planned route network. The first phase of the STP requires narrow bodied aircraft such as the Embraer ERJ145 to ply the domestic and regional routes with increased frequencies for the convenience of the travelling public as well as feeding into the planned international routes. This expanded route network will see the procurement of wide bodied aircraft in the second phase.”
Aviation experts said while the Embraer is a good step for Air Zimbabwe, it will need more frequent routes and flights to be profitable. The airline has flown the Embraer before; it operated a similar plane under lease from Solenta between 2013 and 2014.
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