Congo oh Congo – do they ever learn …


(Posted 20th July 2015)

After only one flight by Ethiopian Airlines to Goma, the main city in Eastern Congo, did the Congolese aviation authorities pull the plug on the flights last week. The three times a week flights were re-launched only on the 10th of July amid much fanfare at the airport. From initial feedback received from aviation sources in Goma was the service highly appreciated by local residents and expatriates who were finally given the option of a globally recognized airline to fly with instead of having to either rely on the often rickety airlines in Congo to fly to Kinshasha or else go by road all the way to Kigali to fly from there. All airlines registered in Congo DR are notably on the EU blacklist which is a damning indictment of both the regulators as well as the airlines themselves. Only Lubumbashi based Korongo, which is in part owned by Brussels Airlines, is presently meeting the exacting maintenance and training standards of EASA while none of the other Congo DR based airlines meet those global safety standards.

Ethiopian’s Bombardier Q400NextGen aircraft, with a routing from Addis Ababa via Entebbe to Goma, was apparently and suddenly declared unfit for the available runway space in Goma even though the authorities knew in advance what aircraft type Ethiopian Airlines was going to use, granted traffic rights and participated in the welcoming celebrations.

Considering their argument even for a moment is it clear that there is more to it than what meets the eye. Jambojet, Kenya Airways’ inhouse low cost subsidiary, uses this aircraft type to fly a daily scheduled service from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into the Ukunda airfield in Diani, which is considerably shorter than the available runway length in Goma. That said have other Congolese registered airlines regularly used similar turboprop aircraft and even jets to land and take off from Goma, prompting immediate calls of foul play with suggestions that corruption, or the attempt of it may have been the primary factor in the sudden blockage. Readers conversant with Congolese aviation practices will find that entirely probable and scorn has been poured once again over the hapless regulators in distant Kinshasa who by the look of things were very likely gotten at by competitors from within Congo or caught in the act once more.

Sources close to Ethiopian Airlines were at this stage not willing to comment on this situation while discussions between airline and Congolese regulators and between the Ethiopian government and their Congolese counterparts were ongoing with the aim to restore the service as quickly as possible.

For breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa look no further than this space.

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