Linden Birns/CAPE TOWN

Air Botswana has wet-leased aircraft from South Africa's SA Express to reinstate services after almost all its aircraft were destroyed in a bizarre pilot suicide crash last week.

An enraged pilot, recently grounded for medical reasons by the small southern African airline, apparently vented his anger by stealing one of the carrier's three ATR 42-300s on 11 October.

After initially threatening, via radio, to crash into the Botswanan premier's residence, the pilot turned his attention to Air Botswana's offices and fleet at Gaborone's Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. He aimed the twin-turboprop at the apron and crashed into the airline's two parked ATR 42s. The pilot was killed and all three aircraft destroyed. There were no passengers involved, although the crash occurred in front of the main terminal building where people were waiting to board early morning flights.

The airline's single British Aerospace 146-100, which is not part of its operational fleet, was also parked on the apron at the time but escaped damage. It is in between leases and being prepared for delivery to Namibian start-up operator, QuickJet.

The airline had been leasing a fourth ATR 42, a -500, from Air Littoral, which was not in Botswana at the time of the crash, and is expected to be retained. SA Express is providing relief by operating flights between Gaborone and Johannesburg for Air Botswana, and a BAe 748 has also been chartered from a South African firm. In the longer term the airline is expected to arrange to replace its three ATRs with new or second-hand aircraft either direct from the manufacturer or from leasing companies

Source: Flight International