Three more ladies were among the nine Rwandan pilots who graduated earlier this week from the Ethiopian Airlines aviation academy in Addis Ababa, part of 143 graduates overall who had successfully completed their respective courses at one of Africa’s top aviation schools. It is a sign of the airline’s commitment to be an equal opportunity employer but also speaks volumes about the Rwandan government’s determination to train Rwandans as pilots and aircraft engineers to reduce the reliance on expatriates.
The cooperation between RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines goes back several years now, in the field of training, mandatory simulator sessions for pilots and aircraft maintenance.
The arrival of Girma Wake, former CEO of Ethiopian Airlines between 2004 and 2011, as Chairman of the RwandAir Board of Directors signaled for informed industry observers the start of the long march towards closer cooperation between the two African carriers. Enter Mikael Gobena in August 2014, taking over the position as Commercial Director, after serving 27 years at Ethiopian Airlines, among them postings as Senior Vice President Global Sales and before leaving Chief Commercial Officer.
It is understood that Ethiopian Airlines emerged as the choice partner of RwandAir for yet closer cooperation, after Etihad abruptly ended talks last year. While no official announcement has been made as yet from either side is it in the eyes of the pundits now only a matter of time before a formal partnership is announced.
This will then give Ethiopian a yet firmer grip on African aviation, following the involvement first at ASKY, then at Malawian Airlines and more recently a reported involvement in the formation of a new airline in the Democratic Republic of Congo. RwandAir, with the airline’s growing network across Africa – flying to five destinations in West Africa including Brazzaville, Libreville, Douala, Lagos and Accra – and of course the network in East Africa where with the exception of Mwanza and Zanzibar every other major airport is now a RwandAir destination, will make a choice jewel in a suitor’s crown, as and when the Rwandan government is ready to put pen to paper.
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