Strange year of disappearing aircrafts

HARARE - As 2014 came to an end, it was easily in the affirmative that, in the aviation industry, at home and abroad, it has been a crazy ride.

Just when it was safe to say that, only Malaysia Airlines had met with unprecedented misfortune and it was time to close the sad chapter, yet another aircraft from the Asian region had disappeared, in circumstances strongly suspected to be bad-weather related.

At the time of this submission, budget airline AirAsia’s Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, flying from Indonesia to Singapore, carrying 162 souls on board, was declared missing, presumed crashed into the turbulent sea, with zero hope for survivors.

2014’s biggest news in global aviation without a doubt, was the mysterious disappearance in March, of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 — without a trace! What bad luck, but worse followed the troubled airline; later in the year, Flight MH17, a fully-laden Boeing 777-200ER was gunned down in July, in the border area of Russia/Ukraine where military skirmishes have raged for some time.

How an airliner ferrying civilians could be left to fly over a well-known hotspot is puzzling. Question is, “Who did the deed?” Of course, a lot of unhelpful finger-pointing has gone on. Sadly, the counter-accusations and blatant propaganda do not bring us nearer to the truth; a matter particularly poignant to relatives of the deceased, still desperate for answers.

Air Zimbabwe refuses to stay out of the headlines; as usual, it’s all for the wrong reasons! The trial of former Air Zimbabwe executives for an alleged multi-million dollar insurance fraud makes for discouraging reading, what with juicy tit-bits emerging and all pointing to what may be the mother-of-all insurance scams.

The appearance and disappearance in its fleet of the Airbus and Embraer aircrafts under murky circumstances confuses anyone following events at Air Zimbabwe. Notwithstanding advertising for a CEO many months ago, the picture created is that the shareholder (Government of Zimbabwe represented by the ministry of Transport) was not in a hurry for substantive hands to steer the stalling airline.

Fact is, for as long as there’s no defined leadership in that crucial office of CEO, the hoped-for turnaround may not happen. Air Zimbabwe is a pale shadow of what it was in the 80s and 90s. At its peak, the national airline flew to Larnaca, Frankfurt, London, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lusaka and several other regional and international destinations. Now there’s only one scheduled regional route, Jo’burg, and nothing else, incomparable to how some ambitious African airlines have soared.

Ethiopian Airlines and Kenyan Airways have grown exponentially in this year. Just days ago, KQ took delivery of brand new aircrafts, in an unmistakable desire to update their already reasonably modernised fleet. Ethiopian remains, by any measure, the best African airline. They have invested in fantastic modern aircrafts, operate profitable routes and were not burdened by government interference, which seems to be the scourge of Air Zimbabwe as many naughty lackeys at the Transport ministry abuse their default superintendent role, confusing it for a managerial one in complex operational matters they were patently clueless about. No wonder Government was pursuing unpopular Russian aircraft purchase deals previously.

Although it is a fact that the predominant aircraft in Air Zimbabwe’s fleet, the Boeing 737-200 remained safe to fly, it had become a thirsty albatross. Competitor airlines have opted for modern equipment, which is more fuel-efficient. What’s more, the discerning modern traveller prefers an airline that uses aesthetically-appealing and quieter equipment replete with modern entertainment consoles.

The good stories coming out of Zim this year include the Caaz airport upgrade projects which were changing the look at Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls. Most government-owned institutions just do not seem to function at all. Caaz is one of the decent ones. Surely, they could be more professional and also charge affordable taxes but generally, they have done a good job especially with the Bulawayo airport update. Vic Falls Airport should be completed soon. That should enable wide-body aircraft to safely use the airport facilities, inspiring a boon in the holiday resort.

FlyAfrica’s emergence has added bodies on the Harare Airport apron and may eventually provide the desired low-cost competition to existing airlines on the expensive Harare-Joburg-Harare run, giving us all something to smile about.

The best Zimbabwean aviation story of 2014 must be the Big African Airshow held at Charles Prince in June. Well done to Isaac Levy and associates for producing an unforgettable show that livened sleepy Harare. What was never published is that a helpful $100 000 was raised to help fund runway upgrades at the small Harare environs airport.

The unforgettable image of Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 737-200 flying a few feet above the ground in slow and super-fast modes, was a winner with the huge show crowd.

The fly in the soup, sadly, was the utterly tragic demise of two Air Force of Zimbabwe airmen who perished in a crash days before, whilst fine-tuning the military wing’s manoeuvres for the show.

Happy landings aviators!

*Maguire (africa.aviator@gmail.com) is a trained pilotwho enthusiastically scans the global aviation industry.Strange year of disappearing aircraft!

Comments (8)

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CARTRIDGE GALLERY - 7 January 2015

2014 truly has been a shocking year. Thankfully our few planes in Zimbabwe take off and land properly.

Farai - 7 January 2015

Maguire we thank you for this section which adds flavor to the national plate. How would you help like demistify flying especially piloting?

Zita - 11 January 2015

Maguire we thank you for this section which adds flavor to the national plate. How would you help like demistify flying especially piloting?

Zita - 11 January 2015

I wonder why Air Zimbabwe doesn't disappear en-route to Singapore

Qawe laMaqawe - 14 January 2015

"I wonder why Air Zimbabwe doesn't disappear en-route to Singapore" Haahaaa, good one, Qawe laMaqawe.

shambolicious - 30 January 2015

REmember when air zim had the slogan of "A tradition of caring" and all the air hostesses were wide-bodied, and a plane or two had tyre blowouts? People changed the slogan to "A tradition of scaring" Hahahahahaaa...

shambolicious - 30 January 2015

Qawe laMaqawe,thats a very good question

TeeTee - 23 May 2015

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