Ethiopian Airlines last week became the first airline in the world outside Japan to fly paying passengers on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The carrier entered the aviation history books today at 12.50 pm ET, inaugurating passenger service on the jet around 1.30 pm with a special flight from Washington Dulles to the carrier’s hub in Addis Ababa. The flight came just two days after Ethiopian officially took delivery of the first commercial jet to be made from carbon fibre construction instead of more-traditional aluminum and steel.“I think it’s an historic milestone for an African airline,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said while aboard a special “delivery flight” from Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington, that positioned it in Washington Dulles for today’s inaugural flight.Gebremariam said it was hard to overstate the significance of Ethiopian’s status as one of the first airlines in the world to put the Dreamliner into service. With today’s flight, Ethiopian has beaten all of the big global carriers from the United States and Europe in deploying the revolutionary jet. Only Japanese carriers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have flown the jet earlier.Ethiopian Airlines has bought ten of Boeing’s flagship aircraft, which are built from lightweight material, rather than aluminium, to save fuel. Despite the pouring rain, a marching band gave a fitting welcome as the first plane arrived and when the Dreamliner touched down at the airport, it was a very proud moment for the company’s workers and many took photographs of the new plane.“As a continent this shows how much we are making progress as Africans... competing on the global stage and changing our image,” Ethiopian Airline head Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport. The aircraft are supposed to cost $200m each but correspondents say airlines rarely pay this price, especially for bulk orders. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways are the only two airlines already operating Dreamliner aircraft.Ethiopian Airlines generally has a good safety record, apart from the 2010 crash of one of its aircraft off the coast of Lebanon. The state-owned company serves 69 international destinations. Ethiopian Airlines secured US$1 billion of financing from JP Morgan to purchase the Boeing B787-8- Dreamliners. The Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) of the United States provided export credit agency support via guaranteed loans that cover 85 per cent of the total cost of the aircraft.The balance will be financed by a group of financial institutions including ING Capital, the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), The Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), the ICF Debt Pool LLP (ICF), and from internal cash resources of Ethiopian.Source: Guardian Media Trinidad & Tobago
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