By Kaleyesus Bekele
Ethiopian Airlines, one of the fastest-growing African airlines, will receive 11 new aircraft during the current fiscal year, it was learnt. The airline will receive one cargo Boeing B777F, three B787, four Bombardier Q400 and two Boeing B737-800. The national flag carrier currently operates 48 aircraft and plans to boost the number of aircraft to 115 by 2015.
Last August the airline became the third airline in the world to own and operate Boeing’s new jetliner: the B787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.
On Thursday the airline received the first of the five Bombardier Q400 regional turboprop aircraft it bought from the Canadian airframer.
Two years ago Ethiopian acquired eight Q400 aircraft. Due to the growing demand of the airline, early this year it placed an order for five more but with a different configuration. Ethiopian took delivery of the first of its five re-configured Bombardier Q-400 aircraft on 28 September 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
Ethiopian said, based on its customers’ feedback, the airline requested the manufacturer to reconfigure the new Q-400 and, as a result, Ethiopian is now the first airline to take delivery of this aircraft with new reconfiguration. The airline said that the new aircraft contains numerous innovations that will greatly enhance passenger comfort. Whereas the previous Q-400s were all economy class, the new aircraft will have 7 business class and 60 economy class seats. The new configuration also has a second lavatory, which gives exclusive access to business class passengers.
Unlike the previous Q-400s, the new aircraft will have reclining seats in economy class cabin and a hot galley enabling the service of hot meals on regional flights. The new airplanes will also have more luggage capacity and extra overhead bin space and leg room.
Receiving the new aircraft on Thursday at the Bole International Airport. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian, said that the airline’s engineers worked with Bombardier on the reconfiguration of the new aircraft. The representatives of Bombardier, the new Canadian Ambassador to Ethiopia David Usher, Ambassadors of Rwanda and Sudan and executives of the airline attended the arrival of the new Q400 aircraft. Ambassador Usher is excepted to present his credentials to President Girma Woldegiorgis in the coming few days.
The new Bombardier was commanded by Capt. Yoseph Gebeyehu and Capt. Dawit Araya. The aircraft departed from Toronto on October1 and arrived in Addis Ababa on October 4. The aircraft landed in six cities for refuelling on its way to Addis Ababa.
Tewolde told The Reporter that his company would lease three of the Q400 to ASKY, the Togo-based airline in which Ethiopian Airlines owns a 25 percent stake. “We will lease it to ASKY on dry lease (without pilots),” Tewolde said. Previously Ethiopian leased one Q400 to ASKY, the West African private airline. Currently ASKY’s pilots are being trained at the Ethiopian aviation academy. Ethiopian has bought Q400’s simulator. It plans to be Africa’s Q400 maintenance center.
The regional aircraft serves domestic routes and Somaliland, Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan.
In a related news, Ethiopian’s second Dreamliner arrived in Addis Ababa Thursday night. The same night the new Dreamliner departed to Paris with Tewolde and other executives of the airline. Ethiopian has replaced one of the defective engines of the first Dreamliner after it discovered an oil leak. A senior official of the airline told The Reporter that it was minor technical problem, adding that the airline took a preventive measure as the company does not compromise safety.