New ATCL plane lands at last…but what’s the secret?

21Sep 2016
Henry Mwangonde
The Guardian
New ATCL plane lands at last…but what’s the secret?

ONE of the two Bombardier Q400 aircraft recently purchased by the government for the national carrier Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) has landed at the Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport from Canada.

The plane, which arrived at around 12.15 pm yesterday, was accorded a welcoming ‘water salute’ by members of the airport’s fire department, according to a statement from the directorate of presidential communications.

It is currently parked at the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) air transport station hangar within the airport boundaries.

Speaking at a reception function held at the airport’s Terminal One, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Dr Leonard Chamriho, said the second Bombardier Q400 aircraft is expected to arrive from Canada in a week’s time.

A grand reception for both planes, to be attended by President John Magufuli, will be announced at a later date, Chamriho said.

However, yesterday’s much-awaited arrival of the first plane appeared to be shrouded in secrecy for unexplained reasons, with members of the local media being barred from entering Terminal One to give the event proper coverage.

Terminal One staffers also told The Guardian outside the entrance gate that as the plane was landing, they (the staffers) were told to surrender their mobile phones until after the reception ceremony.

The local press corps finally gave up trying to gain access to Terminal One and camped outside the airport entrance trying to communicate with authorities inside. But no officials appeared willing to cooperate by commenting on what was going on.

The two Canadian-made Bombardier planes were earlier scheduled to arrive in the country yesterday, with President Magufuli expected to lead a high-level government welcoming delegation.

But it was later abruptly announced that the arrival of the planes had been postponed until further notice.

Aviation industry observers are optimistic that the two aircraft can help turn ATCL’s fortunes around and make it competitive again. The airline has constituted a task force to oversee issues like staff training in its quest to fulfill that goal.

Destinations which have been earmarked for the two planes’ regular routes within the country - based on business feasibility studies already done - include Dodoma, Mwanza, Arusha, Mbeya, Kigoma, Tabora, Mpanda, Kilimanjaro, Mtwara, Zanzibar, Pemba, Bukoba, and the Comoros Islands.