Joy as Tanzania receives first ever cargo aircraft

President Samia Suluhu Hassan sits in the cockpit of the new Boeing 767-300F cargo jet. The aircraft, purchased by the government for the ATCL, landed at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

What you need to know:

  • The new aircraft, which has the Air Tanzania emblem and is named Lake Tanganyika, was commandeered by three pilots led by Captain Neema Swai

Dar es Salaam. Joy and excitement were evident as thousands of Tanzanians flocked to the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) yesterday to receive the very first cargo aircraft in the country.

The freighter plane with a carrying capacity of 54 tonnes landed at the JNIA around 1400 hrs, with President Samia Suluhu Hassan leading the welcoming party. It was a clear indication of the country’s determination to tap into the huge air cargo market.

Amidst a roar of applause that was sparked by a performance by a number of musicians who attended the event, the freshly purchased aircraft received a water salute from the engines parked on the tarmac.

The aircraft, which has the Air Tanzania emblem and is named Lake Tanganyika, was commandeered by three pilots led by Captain Neema Swai.

Captain Swai, who was entrusted with flying and bringing the plane to the country. Mr Matindi said that Captain Swai, who is one of the 10 female pilots for ATCL, was also the first Tanzanian pilot to fly a Boeing 767-300, writing another chapter in the history of aviation in the country.

The government said the country’s air cargo market was huge but remained untapped; thus, the arrival of the first freighter plane was a huge boost.

In his remarks, Airt Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) director general Ladslaus Matindi noted that the aircraft, which is set to stimulate the growth of the cargo transportation service, flies for an average of seven to 10 hours without landing, depending on the weight of the load it carries. “We appreciate the fact that the government has allocated funds for the construction and improvement of warehouses in key locations to aid in the collection and handling of cargo prior to shipping,” Mr Matindi noted.

He said the new aircraft will enable ATCL to airlift perishable goods such as fish fillets, seafood, decorative fish, meat, flowers, fruits, and vegetables directly to the market.

“Tanzania’s geographic location means that ATCL would also tap into neighbouring countries freight businesses,” he noted.

He stated that in its corporate strategic plan for 2022/23 to 2026–27, the company plans to have 20 aircraft, including eight short-range planes, eight medium-range planes, three long-range planes, and one large cargo plane.

However, due to the actual situation of the cargo transportation market, ATCL would need two cargo planes. “So we bring our request to you to add one cargo plane to meet market demand,” Mr Matindi said, addressing President Samia.

President Hassan spoke about the government’s intention to work on ATCL’s request to add another cargo jet, expressing her gratitude to Tanzanians for the success the nation was accomplishing through a number of development projects.

“I have been asked for another cargo plane here; our promise to you, the people, is that we will work on it. We thank you very much,” said the President. After her brief remarks, President was taken to inspect the new aircraft. She boarded the plane and was taken around various sections, starting with the cockpit, where she chatted briefly with Captain Swai. She then headed to the cargo section.

According to Works and Transport Minister Makame Mbarawa, Tanzania’s total production of fish, meat, flowers, vegetables, and fruit products stood at an average of 24,971 tonnes per annum.

Prof Mbarawa said at a recent media conference that the consignment is normally transported by air transport to the European and Asian markets of India, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Romania, and Malta.

However, he explained, only an average of 420 tonnes equivalent to 1.7 percent, were being flown to the markets using the country’s airports.

He went further to explain that the rest of the consignment was being flown through the neighbouring airports.

“We have not utilised the markets to the maximum since we had no cargo aircraft, thus making our transportation costs higher than neighbouring countries,” he said.

“The coming of cargo planes is a sigh of relief to farmers and exporters. It will cut down costs for exports and imports of various products.”

He was quoted as saying that the freighter plane would eventually bolster economic growth and encourage traders to increase production due to its assured reliability and cheapness.

He further said yesterday that ATCL will use the cargo aircraft to fly freight to the regional and international markets of Nairobi (Kenya), Dubai, Mumbai (India), Guangzhou (China), Harare (Zimbabwe), and Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), among other destinations.