Saturday, October 31, 2020

New Air Botswana Jet wings clipped

BY OBUSITSE KOLOGWE

The newly acquired 70 seats Jet by Air Botswana, Embraer E-70 will not fly any time soon as it has to satisfy some terms and conditions.

This is according to a statement from Air Botswana Corporate Communications Manager Thabiso Leshoai. He explained that for an aircraft to be commercially available in Botswana, the Air Operator  Certificate(AOC) holder in this case (Air Botswana) needs to satisfy Part five(2) of the Civil Aviation and Administration regulation of 2013. He said it is still yet to satisfy some requirements and there will be delay.

“There is still need for de-registration of the aircraft from its former regulatory juridistiction and for Botswana (CAAB) to start enforcing its regulations. There is supposed to be a start of process for compliance with Botswana regulations by securing a Certificate of Air Worthiness). This does not mean that the aircraft was not air worthy when it arrived, it just means it has to be certified as air worthy by CAAB,” he said He denied the allegations that the aircraft is grounded. He said the aircraft is technically in working condition and serviceable. He added that the aircraft is ready for operation. Leshoai revealed that there is a document evaluation phase that involves review of several pages of material as this is the first E-170 Embraer being registered in Botswana. He also said there is suppose to be demonstration and inspection phase which includes actual test flights “Once all these processes have been completed and the aircraft has been included in Air Botswana’s Air Operator Certificate it can commercially be available. However for international operations, we will have to apply and secure what is known as Foreign Operators Permit (FOP) but this can only be done after the CAAB certification processes are completed,” Leshoai said.

He explained that most of these approvals are dependent on each other and of necessity sequential and as a result they are lengthy. He said Air Botswana adheres to the highest standards of safety and security compliance to regulatory requirements. He made it clear that the airline commits to comply with all regulations even if it means the process of compliance turns out to be lengthy as this in the interest of the public safety and security.

The troubled airline has over the years been tormented by financial challenges, aging fleet of aircrafts and an exodus of staff especially the pilots.

The jet was acquired from a Canadian Company called Regional One.The new aircraft was delivered and was officially handed on 29 December 2018. It was branded and named “Okavango”. The acquisition of the jet is part of Air Botswana’s fleet upgrade programme.

Responding to Sunday Standard questions, Leshoai on Friday could not divulge the price of the aircraft as he said they are restricted to do so as transactions are usually governed by non disclosure agreements between two parties.

“Accordingly the airline has already started to serve Cape Town with three weekly flights on Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays and plans to introduce flights to Harare and Lusaka in April,” he said.

He revealed that they are expecting the arrival of another jet which is planned for the middle of the year. He said they are plans to add operations to Windhoek and offer improved direct domestic connectivity between urban centres in Botswana.

Currently Air Botswana owns 4 aircrafts comprising of two new ATR 72-600, one Embraer E- 170 jet and an ATR 42-500.

Leshoai emphasized that none of their aircrafts is grounded. On challenges that are faced by the airline, he said they are being addressed progressively.

“For instance Air Botswana now operates a younger fleet due to our on-going fleet upgrade programme and we are convinced this will go a long way in redressing some of the other challenges that have plagued us in the past. While some challenges remain due to the demands of business, these are being addressed with specific interventions and strategies,”Leshoai said.

Asked if it is not costly to the airline to maintain an aircraft that is not in operation, he said the airline plan has always been for the jet to be Integrated into service by March 1 2019, but said the process of registration should take its course. He said meeting safety standards and complying with regulations is the single most priority for Air Botswana.

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