By Franklin Draku
Kampala — The government has moved to quell fears about the choice of aircraft to kick-start the operation of the national carrier.
Works and Transport minister Monica Azuba Ntege told journalists yesterday at Uganda Media Centre that Uganda made the choice after carefully analysing the technical and financial specifications of the companies that expressed interest.
She said government received proposals from Airbus, Bombardier, and Boeing but after careful analysis, they chose the first two.
Uganda has already paid $400,000 (about Shs1.5b) to Bombardier and $800,000 (about Shs3b) to Airbus to facilitate the aircraft manufacture.
Ms Azuba said each Bombardier will cost $27.7m (about Shs106b), while each Airbus A330-800 will cost $108m (about Shs415b), prices she said are much lower than what Boeing had quoted.
But the figures quoted by the minister are lower than what Bombardier reported on their website while announcing the total cost of the four aircrafts. The company had said: “Based on the list price for the CRJ900 aircraft, the firm order is valued at approximately $190 million (about Shs730b).”
When asked about the discrepancies in the figures, Ms Azuba said the Finance ministry could have negotiated the figures down to what they gave her.
A few days ago, the country announced agreements with Bombardier, a Canadian aerospace company, to supply aircraft for regional routes, while Airbus will supply Airbus A330-800 for international routes.
The order for the Airbus A330-800 carriers raised concerns, with some critics saying since it made its maiden flight about two years ago, no airline has made orders for the planes. Even those that had made one later cancelled the orders.
Uganda will be the first country to fly the A330-800 carrier, if it maintains the orders. However, other variants such as A330-200, 300 and 900 are already on the market.
But Ms Azuba said the Airbus A330-800 variant is suited for the needs of the Uganda National Airline Company, which will ply the far eastern markets.
“The A330-800 variant will have a shorter fuselage allowing it to fly longer and further than the current 900 version. This range payload performance is what is required for Uganda airlines to operate non-stop flights on long routes to China and the Far East,” she said.
The minister said Uganda chose the Airbus because it has a large fleet of technical competence and spare part availability across the different variants of the A330 family.
“The A330 has a large operator base with 99 per cent spares commonality across the fleets, making it easy to maintain. The 99 per cent commonality across the A330 family in terms of spares and components lowers the potential cost of maintenance for this aircraft compared to others,” she said.
Ms Azuba also said in the recent past, a total of 26 airlines of 30 that embarked on long-haul flights chose Airbus over Boeing and other carriers, making it the preferred option.
Revival. The process to revive the airline was stared in 2013 on the basis of an analysis and recommendation made by the Presidential Economic Commission. This was followed by a study by the Uganda Development Corporation and another study conducted by audit firm Ernest and Young on instructions of the Civil Aviation Authority. In 2015, the National Planning Authority undertook an in-house study and developed a feasibility study that formed the basis for further analysis.