By: Martin Luther Oketch
Kampala — Uganda Airlines will take up to three months before it can begin doing commercial flights, according Works and Transport minister Monica Azuba Ntege.
The airline, which is expected to bring in two aircraft before the end of April and July, will in the three months, Ms Azuba said, be conducting demonstration flights to neighboring countries as well as fulfilling other process such as acquisition of an air operators certification.
Speaking in Kampala yesterday, Ms Azuba told journalists that the tentative arrival of the aircraft in Uganda is April 23.
However, she emphasised that the date only remained tentative subject to further confirmation.
The aircraft, Ms Ntege indicated, will arrive in phases with the others expected in July and September.
During the three-month period, according to Ms Azuba, government will complete the air operator certification, a mandatory process that involves physical inspections that are likely to take at least 90 days.
The certification, which has five phases will include a pre-application for certification, a stage that she said has already been concluded.
"The process includes demonstrating (to the satisfaction of the CAA) that the airline has proper operating premises, trained staff, maintenance providers, tools and equipment as well structures, processes and systems to enable the safe and secure operation of international commercial flights," he said.
Ms Azuba also indicated that the airline will be required to complete flight tests on routes it expects to operate to meet minimum hours for issuance of the air operator certificate and validation of the crew licences as per the regulations.
"Commercial airline operations can therefore only start after completion of these processes and issuance of the air operator certificate," she said.
The new aircraft, according to the Works Ministry, are the first in the series and Uganda Airlines will be the first country in Africa to fly them.
"They are the most suitable for Uganda given the routes that we are going to operate on and their maintenance is appropriate for us," said Ms Azuba, explaining that the airline will also need to be designated to operate in other countries, a requirement that is maintained in the Bilateral Air Services Agreements signed between Uganda and the other contracting countries.
Currently, Uganda has signed 47 Bilateral Air Services Agreements with other countries which will need to be activated.
Payments and delivery
In July 2018, according to Ms Azuba, government made its the first instalment of the airline's operating capital of Shs129b or approximately $35m. The money was released to Bombardier through the Ministry of Finance.
"$29.9m of this allocation was used to pay aircraft deposits to Bombardier and Airbus in order to enable signature of the aircraft purchase agreements and allow for the start of the aircraft manufacturing processes while $5m was left as operating funds," she said.
After months of negotiating with possible lenders, she said government in February decided to finance the airline (both the operating capital and the aircraft acquisitions) from internal funds, pointing out that the best mechanism was to obtain funds through "supplementary allocations" from Government Budget.
This required that a request for Shs283b be passed through a Parliamentary resolution, which was accordingly secured last month. Subsequently, a final payment of $41.55m was made to Bombardier while another payment of $20m was made to Airbus on April 5 for deposits on the two aircrafts.
"It is important to note that all aircrafts being purchased are brand new and will be received straight from the assembly lines of the two manufacturers."
A team from Uganda Airlines has already been dispatched to the Bombardier facility to conduct final inspections and tests on the expected aircrafts.