BOEING’S plans to turn Zimbabwe into its Southern African regional hub where training and expert technical services would be provided to companies flying the company’s aircraft are gathering pace amid indications are that Government has started consulting on how to go about it.
Indications are that some of the largest airlines operating Boeing aircraft in Southern Africa will be re-routing to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare for specialised technical support.
The Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, which is set for modernisation in the near future following the ground breaking ceremony by President Mnangagwa, will not have challenges accommodating the planes given that it already has world-class facilities, including one of the longest runways in the world, which is 4 730 metres long and 47 metres wide.
Boeing, which has supplied planes in the past, including 747s to national airliner Air Zimbabwe, has forged new relations with Zimbabwe after the country recently acquired four Boeing 777s.
The planes were acquired from Malaysian Airlines at a cost of US$70 million and Government has since paid US$41 million.
Two of the planes are five years-old and cost US$18,5 million each while the other two are 10 years-old and were sold at US$16,5 million each.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo told The Sunday Mail Business last week that the relations between Zimbabwe and Boeing are at an all-time high after the acquisition of the four planes.
“We are working pretty well with them (Boeing). They also want to make Harare a hub for Boeing in Southern Africa,” said Dr Gumbo.
“They are working with us and we are consulting on how to go about it. We are working very well with them.”
Once the deal materialises, it will rank probably as the biggest and critical achievements of President Mnangagwa’s administration, which has opened up the country to international investment.
Between January and June this year, the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) approved investments worth US$16 billion and there are fresh hopes that the recent holding of elections declared free and fair by many observers will spur further economic growth going forward.
The United States of America-based Boeing, which was founded in 1916, is a world acclaimed aircraft manufacturer which also produces space vehicles, and such a prestigious profile is expected to magnetise more high value global investors as Zimbabwe seeks to transform its economy.
Boeing had a market capitalisation of US$199,5 billion as at June 2018.
Moves to register Boeing 777s underway
Currently, Government is consulting Boeing at every turn as it seeks to register its Boeing 777s with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz). Dr Gumbo said it is impossible to ignore advice from Boeing since they are the manufacturers. Government is already complying with Caaz’s requirements as efforts to start flying the aircraft gather pace.
A British firm, Evans Consulting, is working on the manuals so that the Zimbabwe Airways planes get an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).
It could not be established how much the consulting firm would be paid but The Sunday Mail Business understands that there is a balance of US$27 000. The balance will be paid on completion of the work.
Further requirements from Caaz are that the aviation firm must appoint key staffers such as a group operations manager, maintenance manager, flight manager, chief pilot and a chief operating officer. Without those appointments, Caaz will not release the AOC. Dr Gumbo said they are “not late” in recruiting the staffers considering that manuals are not yet ready.
“After that is done, there is nothing that stops us from flying our planes, the first two that we have paid for. The other two have a balance,” he said.
Government decided in 2012 to set up Zimbabwe Airways to become the second national airliner after realising that Air Zimbabwe was being haunted by creditors who wanted to attach its planes and other properties due to debt.
Air Zimbabwe has legacy debts amounting to US$334 million.
Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company, a special purpose vehicle also created by Government, will run Zimbabwe Airways.