Brussels Airlines is pressing ahead with its AirDC Congolese start-up project in co-operation with Hewa Bora Airways, despite its partner’s recent fatal McDonnell Douglas DC-9 crash and European Union ban.
The European Commission has a blanket ban on air transport operations from Democratic Republic of Congo because of its dissatisfaction with regulatory oversight. Despite the ban, Hewa Bora had until recently been allowed to operate a single aircraft in Europe under a special arrangement, but this agreement has now ended.
On 15 April, a Hewa Bora DC-9 crashed into a residential and commercial area of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Latest estimates suggest that there were 40 fatalities.
The developments are a blow to Brussels Airlines, which was planning to launch Congolese start-up AirDC last month. Kinshasa-based Air DC is 49%-owned by Brussels Airlines’ Mauritius-based affiliate Pan African Airlines, while Hewa Bora holds the remainder.
A Brussels Airlines spokesman says: “Hewa Bora is a partner in the project, at least financially. That’s important because all of the operational elements will be performed by Brussels Airlines. Hewa Bora is involved more on the commercial side, as they are familiar with the market in Congo and the agency network.
“For us Hewa Bora being on the blacklist and having suffered an accident does not impede our plans substantially, although it does slow them down a bit because we don’t want to take any risks with security.
“We have re-checked the infrastructure at the airports to make sure everything complies with international operational standards. It is our intent to go on with the project and we are hoping for the first flights before the summer.”
He says the airline plans to launch with two British Aerospace 146s, which are ready to leave Brussels after being adapted for African operations. They will soon be dispatched to Mauritius, where they will be locally registered.
AirDC will initially fly from Kinshasa to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s major domestic destinations, but will later branch out into international operations. A third aircraft will later be added, depending on the success of AirDC’s initial operations.
The spokesman says some of AirDC’s planned destination airports are ready to receive flights, but others need runway and emergency service improvements. He says this is why AirDC is yet to detail its initial network.
Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news
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