The arrival yesterday of the second Bombardier Q400NG in Dar es Salaam went almost unnoticed, completing the first order for new aircraft Tanzania has placed in decades. A few months ago, after an expeditious review of the national airline’s operations and needs to facilitate a revival, the Tanzanian government had ordered two of the most advanced turboprop aircraft on the market – the Bombardier Q400NextGen.
The two 76-seater aircraft with a single-cabin all economy layout will be deployed primarily for domestic services across the sprawling East African nation, to allow Air Tanzania not only to increase frequencies on key routes out of Dar es Salaam, but also to resume services to a number of other airports to which the airline had to halt its operations due to lack of serviceable aircraft.
It is here where Air Tanzania will have to compete with Precision Air, which operates a fleet of ATR 42 and ATR 72 turboprops and enjoyed a near monopoly on several domestic routes. However, for destinations like Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Mwanza and Mbeya, the local rival Fastjet, presently undergoing a restructuring and awaiting a major fleet change, will be the one to beat, not just on the level of fares, but also vis a vis on time performance and offering multiple daily services to these domestic destinations.
The two Q400NGs join a Bombardier sister ship of a Q300 make, bringing the fleet to three aircraft for the time being. However, government sources have already intimated that a further two aircraft orders are under consideration for the first half of 2017, likely to be larger aircraft and very likely also to be of Bombardier make. The most likely choice for those orders could be the CRJ900NG, even though Bombardier might be keen to sell the more advanced C-Series, an aircraft with the arguably best operating economics in its class.
Today President Magufuli will officially inaugurate the two new aircraft in a ceremony at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, when the two planes are also expected to be given names.
Will the arrival of the two new aircraft mark a new beginning for Air Tanzania? As always only time will tell how a new team at the helm will perform vis a vis operational quality and financial prudence to secure the long term survival of the previously moribund national airline.
Bombardier with this delivery has also increased its African footprint with over 125 aircraft in service, 40 of which are Q400NG’s flying for RwandAir, Ethiopian Airlines and Asky.