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Air Zimbabwe gets two Boeing 777-200 ER planes





TWO of the four Boeing 777-200 ER planes purchased by Government from Malaysia are expected in the country within two months, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza has said.

He was responding to questions by the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development who wanted to know what happened to the four passenger planes bought by Government from Malaysia.

"Two of the planes have already been fully paid for and we are expecting them in the country within two months from now," said Minister Matiza.

"We are still in the process of paying for the other two. Issues of foreign currency are hindering the process of paying for the other two in full, but we have already started paying for them."

Our Harare Bureau understands that a payment of US$5 million was made last week, with more payments expected in the near future.

Minister Matiza said as the two B777s draw ever so close to being delivered, a training programme for pilots and engineers who will operate the planes has started.

The delivery of the two B777s dovetails with Government's plan to revive the national airline.

This follows the delivery of an Embraer ERJ 145 aircraft earlier this month. Air Zimbabwe has largely been operating two serviceable aircraft, a Boeing 737-200 ER and 767-200ER.

The other planes have been grounded due to old age and shortage of spares and foreign currency.

Another Air Zimbabwe aircraft has been parked at O.R Tambo International Airport in South Africa for some time and efforts are underway to bring it back home.

Minister Matiza told the Portfolio Committee that efforts are underway to service and maintain the plane before flying it back to Harare.

At least US$3,7 million is required to service the plane.

Payments for services are being hampered by foreign currency shortages obtaining in the country.

Air Zimbabwe corporate services manager Mr Tafadzwa Mazonde told our Harare Bureau last night by phone that the coming of the Embraer and anticipated B777s is part of the company's revival strategy.

Mr Mazonde said as part of national flag carrier's reconstruction process being led by Mr Reggie Saruchera, they have developed a strategic plan which they hope will "succeed".

"The rebuilding of the airline will initially start with strengthening our domestic and regional network. Once we strengthen that, we proceed to build the long haul flights.

"The regional and domestic routes would initially be strengthened by the arrival of the Embraer and then we also hope to be procuring some narrow-bodied aircraft in the form of Boeing 737s.

"Now, the coming on board of the 767s will then be used for the purpose of long haul flights. Of these long haul flights, we believe the airline is a good ambassador of the country and as we fly on these long haul flights, we are sending a message to the international community that Zimbabwe is still there," said Mr Mazonde.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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