One of Africa’s fastest growing airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, has formally unveiled its latest acquisition – the Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner in Harare.
The arrival of the giant 289-seater aircraft, the most technologically advanced commercial aircraft in the world, was a spectacle for both local and
Ethiopian nationals who thronged the Harare International Airport, as it taxied on the runway and received the traditional water canon salute, reserved for aeroplanes making their maiden landing.
The plane’s landing at the airport was its third on African soil and underlined the importance of Harare as a major hub for air travel in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole. The plane, dubbed “Africa’s first”, is one of 10 Dreamliners ordered by Ethiopian Airlines to service mostly African routes.
Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development Permanent Secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa, standing in for Minister Nicholas Goche, said the arrival of the Dreamliner was another milestone in the long-standing relationship between Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
“As we witness the airline’s maiden landing — the third country to do so — we feel proud to be associated with Ethiopia as the first airline in Africa to receive this technologically advanced aircraft from Boeing. The memorable virgin landing is really about route expansion and developments — elements, which are essential for the fast and frequent transport connections that people and businesses need today,” he said.
He added that the successful landing of the Dreamliner in Harare was an indication of the country’s high levels of preparedness as both an airport and destination of choice.
“We hope that the Dreamliner will enjoy serving Zimbabwe, a world of wonders, a truly viable destination with world-rated tourist attractions,” he said.
Mr Munodawafa urged the Civil Aviation Authority to continue to maintain high standards and woo more airlines to land in the country.
“We need to retain every plane that lands here. It is within our capacity — it can be done,” he said.
CAAZ board chairman Advocate Jacob Mudenda said the arrival of the Dreamliner at the airport was another seal of approval for the country’s safety aviation record.
“As the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe we are proud that the Dreamliner has demonstrated to Africa and the world of aviation that we can land the family of Dreamliners here at the Harare International Airport safely and securely in terms of our now proven air navigation service.
“The Dreamliner has done us proud today. That confidence will certainly be sustained by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Advocate Mudenda paid tribute to Ethiopian Airlines for being one of the few airlines to continue flying into Zimbabwe at a time when other airlines were pulling out due to negative publicity the country was attracting internationally during the first decade of the new millennium.
“Ethiopia’s unflinching support during the difficult times has proved the adage that a brother in need is a brother indeed, to be true,” he said.
Ethiopian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Dr Koang Dung said the arrival of the Dreamliner was a reaffirmation of Ethiopia’s commitment to its friendship with Zimbabwe that has seen its airline flying to Zimbabwe consistently since 1982.
“My country attaches great importance to its friendship with Zimbabwe and that is why it moved swiftly to establish air links with the country in 1982 soon after its independence,” he said.
“This was followed by the signing of a bilateral Air Service Agreement during the same year. Since then we have been flying to Zimbabwe consistently and even when there were problems, we continued flying although we were making losses because Zimbabwe was too valuable a friend to desert.”
The Dreamliner is a long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It seats 265 passengers in economy class and 24 in business class. It is Boeing’s most fuel-efficient airliner and the world’s first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction.
The 787 consumes 20 percent less fuel than the similarly-sized 767. Its distinguishing features include a four-panel windshield, noise-reducing chevrons on its engine nacelles, and a smoother nose contour.
It offers passengers enhanced on-board comfort, significantly reduced noise, higher level of humidity and boasts the biggest windows ever and a unique lighting system.