Kuda Bwititi: Chief Reporter
A new commercial airline, Rainbow Airlines is set to hit the skies this month as Government efforts to improve the investment climate continue to bear fruits. A wholly-owned Zimbabwean company, Rainbow Airlines will commence its first flights on January 25 servicing the Harare-Johannesburg and Harare-Victoria Falls routes after it was granted the requisite licences.At the same time Government is negotiating for a US$150 million loan with a Chinese investor to uplift the Harare International Airport and transform it into one of the top airports in Africa.
The airliner, which has previously attempted to hit the skies without success was granted the go-ahead to operate by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe last month. In an interview yesterday, Rainbow Airlines chief executive Mr Ed Berry said the company had decided to invest in Zimbabwe because the climate was ripe for investment.
“Contrary to what people have been saying, Zimbabwe’s climate is very good for investment. The tourism sector is growing and Government has been putting in a lot of effort in addressing reforms on the ease of doing business,” he said.
“So as a company we feel that our investment will be worth the while because there are a lot of opportunities in the aviation sector to earn foreign currency for the country.”
Mr Berry lauded the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development for creating the enabling environment to allow the company to operate.
“I must commend the Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority for the swift nature with which they managed to facilitate the processes,” he said
“The CAAZ maintains standards equal to, or higher than those required by the International Aviation Authorities.
“The airline first had to apply for and be granted an Air Service Permit by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development. Once this was granted, Rainbow Airlines had to apply to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) for an “Air Operator Certificate (AOC).”
”During the AOC certification process Rainbow Airlines was required by CAAZ to go through the five- phase inspection process-being pre-application, formal application, document evaluation, demonstration, inspection and finally certification,”
Asked if the airliner would be able to stand the heat in the competitive industry, which has seen airlines such as Fly Africa falling by the wayside, Mr Berry said his company was in for the long haul.
“We are pretty confident of our capabilities. Our aircraft will be the 50 seater Bombardier CRJ100 aircraft within the first four months of operation, to assist in servicing the increased routes and frequencies.”
He said the airliner would be flying more routes outside the region to earn foreign currency for the country.
“We are hoping that once we have established ourselves we can add other routes like Harare to Nairobi, Harare to Lubumbashi, Harare to Kinshasa, Harare to Durban, Bulawayo to Johannesburg and Harare to Beira and Maputo.”
Speaking to The Sunday Mail last week, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said Government was finalising negotiations for the face-lift of the Harare International Airport.
“We are going to construct new structures to give an upgrade to Harare International Airport in 2017. Once the improvements are complete, we expect it to be one of the busiest airports on the continent.
“Currently, it carries about 1, 5 million passengers annually, but we are looking at reaching 6 million passengers a year.”
Dr Gumbo said work on Harare International Airport will commence during the first quarter of the year.
“We are hoping to start the construction work in the first quarter of the year. We are in talks with the Chinese, the same company which provided funds for construction of the Victoria Falls Airport and they have said they can grant us a similar loan.”
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