President Yoweri Museveni and a number of government dignitaries were on hand at the tarmac at the old airport to receive the planes
It is the beginning of a new era. Two of the Bombardier CRJ900 planes that were ordered for touched down at Entebbe International Airport on Tuesday morning.
President Yoweri Museveni accompanied the First Lady Janet Museveni, ministers, MPs and other dignitaries witnessed the landing of the ‘twin birds’ amidst ululation and singing.
The works minister Monica Azuba Ntenge and the First Lady were among those chorusing: “This is the day that the Lord had made; we shall rejoice and be glad in it.”
Upon arrival, the two planes received a ceremonial water salute. The water salute is a touching airport tradition to honour a new airline service. Salutes typically involve two firefighting rigs spraying arcs of water over an arriving aircraft in a sign of respect, honour and gratitude.
The two planes’ itinerary started at Montréal-Mirabel International Airport in Canada and had stopovers at airports in Iceland, The Netherlands, and Aswan in Egypt before landing at Entebbe.
On board each plane were four pilots — two Ugandans and the other from Bombardier. Each plane also had a Ugandan engineer.
Uganda Airlines ordered for four Bombardier CRJ planes each costing $27.3m (sh102.5b) and two A330-800neo planes made by Airbus each. The Airbus planes will arrive at a later date.
Uganda Airlines will make flights to 26 destinations according to a member of the Uganda Airlines task committee. The confirmed 19 regional and seven international routes are demand driven.
Regional routes will include Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Bujumbura, Kigali, Goma, Harare, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and Lagos among others. The International flights are to London, Amsterdam, Bombay, Dubai and Doha.
Moses Dhizaala a Uganda Airline task committee member said they have so far recruited 14 pilots and 30 hostesses. He said they have not yet worked out the inaugural flight schedule.
“These are Uganda experienced pilots who have worked in US, Malaysia, Nigeria and Indonesia. Of the total 400 anticipated staff, over 200 staff have been recruited,” Dhizaala who is also the interim human resource manager said.
According to Dhizaala who was on the team that carried out the feasibility study for the revival of Uganda’s national carrier, the $27.3m cost of each CRJ craft was predetermined by the feasibility study.
“It was a corrupt-free process. We put that cost to ensure that the Airline breaks even. We could not get a better deal than that. I am happy that the airline has been capitalised without a debt,” Dhizaala said.
He said a number of Ugandans including those in government were sceptical over the revival of the national carrier but hailed President Museveni’s objectivity over the project.
“The real saviour of that Airline is President Museveni. He read all our reports and took time to listen to us,” Dhizaala said.
The first brand new CRJ900 Bombardier aircraft are fitted with the atmosphere cabin making it the first operator in Africa with this enhanced cabin experience, the manufacturer has said.
The contemporary style and design give the interior a wider aisle, integrated connected cabin, large overhead bins, new class dividers and wheels-first overhead cabin. The aircraft’s lavatory design gives it more headroom and floor space with an easy clean surface. It has large windows and a more spacious entrance.
It’s a dual-class configuration with 76 seats, including 12 first class seats.
A feasibility study report recently revealed that Uganda loses about $540 million (sh2trillion) annually, in form of higher transport costs or extra charges to passengers originating and terminating at Entebbe International Airport, due to the absence of a national carrier.
Bombardier is a global leader in the transportation industry, creating innovative and game-changing planes and trains.
Headquartered in Montréal, Bombardier has production and engineering sites in 28 countries across the segments of Transportation, Business Aircraft, Commercial Aircraft and Aerostructures and Engineering Services.
In the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018, Bombardier posted revenues of $16.2b.