The world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, Boeing Company, plans to set up base in Zimbabwe that will provide training and expert technical services to companies operating different versions of the aviation company’s planes in the region, according to Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo.
Negotiations for the Boeing base started when Zimbabwe purchased four Boeing 777 aircraft from Malaysia at a cost of $70 million, with Boeing assisting the country through the process of certifying the planes, among other issues, he told Business Weekly on Monday.
Boeing is a world acclaimed firm that is also a leading producer of military aircraft and space vehicles.
Indications are that some of the largest airlines operating Boeing aircraft, will be re-routing to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare for specialised technical support.
With minor improvements, Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport has world-class facilities including one of the longest runways in the world (4 730 metres long and 47 metres wide), that can accommodate some of the largest aeroplanes in the world.
Nitty-gritties of the deal
Dr Gumbo, on Monday said that Boeing wanted Harare to become an attractive aviation regional hub in Southern Africa.
Once the deal materialises, it would be a major achievement for the country, which has opened up to international investment and has already attracted over $16 billion worth of firm investment commitments since the coming in of the new dispensation.
Dr Gumbo said after the country acquired four Boeing 777 planes from Malaysia, the manufacturer pledged to assist in the training of local experts.
Further, Boeing pledged to make Harare its regional hub where a training school would be established to train people from other countries.
“They also assisted us to recruit some pilots to fly the Boeing 777; we did not have such planes (the Boeing 777s) in Zimbabwe. They were also assisting us with business plans,” he said.
The Government has paid for two Boeing 777s from Malaysia as part of a deal to buy four of the jetliners to be operated by a state-owned company, Zimbabwe Airways.
Said Dr Gumbo: “The two planes are already ours, but we do not have hangers to keep them here that is why they are still in Malaysia.
“We are also processing some operators’ licences (Air Operators Licence). About $137 000 is needed for the planes to get the Air Operators Licence and that is being worked on by Boeing.
“From the $70 million (to be paid to Malaysia), we are now left with $29 million which must be paid by the end of June so that we get the four planes that we pledged to buy.”
Of the four planes bought by Government, two of them are five years old and were going for $18,5 million.
The other two are 10 years old going for $16,5 million each.
The deal came about after Cabinet directed the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development to negotiate with other airlines.
Twelve airlines were approached for joint ventures.
Dr Gumbo said after talking to about three firms, they realised that “no one wanted to join hands with Air Zimbabwe” because of its humongous debt estimated at $334 million.
“We talked to Ethiopian Airlines and they said no. Kenyan Airways had its own problems then the next port of call was the Malaysian Airlines, which also had some problems.
“It was in a similar situation like ours of undergoing rehabilitation and they told us that they were also not interested in joining hands with us but they could sell us their Boing 777s, four of them for $70 million.”
Dr Gumbo said they went into negotiations as Air Zimbabwe for the purchase of the four planes.
Eventually, Government registered the planes under Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company, a special purpose vehicle that runs Zimbabwe Airways, after realising that many people owed by Air Zimbabwe were aiming to impound them.
Dr Gumbo said some white farmers who were in Namibia and some Germans who lost their land, expressed interest in targeting Air Zimbabwe planes.
“So to avoid all this, we agreed to have an aviation leasing company to own the planes and we cancelled off the idea of the planes to be owned by Air Zimbabwe.
“We then formed the (Zimbabwe) Aviation Leasing Company, a Government owned entity not a private entity. Zimbabwe Airways is not a new company, it was formed in 2012 by Government after agreement by Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya, former President Mugabe and VaMnangagwa. There is no secret.”
Major aeroplane manufacturers in the world
· Boeing Business Jets
· Bombardier Aerospace
· Cessna Aircraft Company
· Dassault Falcon
· Embraer-Empresa Brasileira DR AeronÁutica
· Gulfstream Aerospace