NATIONAL FLAG carrier Ethiopian Airlines has signed a memorandum of understanding for the acquisition of five Fokker 50 turboprops to replace its two 46-seat ATR 42-300s and some 18-seat de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters.

Delivery of the new aircraft, which will be acquired on a ten-year finance lease, is scheduled for between May and December 1996.

The version of the twin-turboprop aircraft being acquired is the Fokker 50 High Performance with more-powerful 2,050kW (2,750shp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127B engines, providing enhanced performance from the short and hot-and-high paved and unpaved airfields prevalent in the mountainous East African nation.

According to Tilahun Kassa, Ethiopian's manager of site and equipment planning, the new fleet will help overcome a serious capacity shortage on routes presently served by the smaller Twin Otters.

The Fokkers will be operated from the capital Addis Ababa to such points as Dessie, Asosa, Dembidollo, Lalibela and Makale.

Although the ATR 42s are only seven years old, Tilahun says that the aircraft are being replaced to streamline the turboprop fleet to a single type.

While the Fokkers will initially be operated on the domestic network, he does not rule out the aircraft for limited cross-border flights.

Two or three Twin Otters will be retained for minor routes.

Source: Flight International