Bahrain Air is to help launch a Sudanese start-up that its investors say could become the "airline of choice" in a region they claim is flourishing economically but is short of reliable air transport.

The kingdom's second carrier - set up two years ago - is to arrange the wet-lease of one of its four Airbus A320s to Blue Nile Airways, into which fellow investors AFAQ of Egypt and HMA in Bahrain are putting $20 million.

Blue Nile - which is restricted from purchasing aircraft because of embargoes on Khartoum - is aiming to have a fleet of four wet-leased aircraft by the end of the year, serving destinations in the country itself, Egypt and the Gulf.

"Our goal is to become one of the leading operators in east Africa - that is why we chose the generic name Blue Nile," says HMA chairman Abdulhakim Allawy.

Despite rumours that it might firm up a letter of intent for six A320 family aircraft at the show, Bahrain Air says difficulty obtaining financing means it will put off any decision until the second half of the year.

The wet lease to Blue Nile leaves it with three A320s and two A319s. "We think we are okay for 2010 with five," says managing director Ibrahim Alhamer.

In the show's only other order announcement, Yemen flag carrier Yemenia firmed an commitment for 10 A320s following a memorandum of understanding signed at the Dubai air show.

Source: Flight International