One of the four aircraft bought by government from Malaysia has reportedly been sold to Jet Midwest, a US-based leading global aviation parts provider, due to non-payment by Zimbabwe.
Government had all along claimed it bought four Boeing 777 aircraft from Malaysia and an Embraer plane, with the planes set to be leased to a new local airline Zim Airways until national carrier Air Zimbabwe returned to profitability.
Zim Airways has been linked to the family of former president Robert Mugabe, and government has been planning to merge it with Air Zimbabwe (AirZim).
This comes as Air Zimbabwe — saddled with a $300 million debt — has been put under reconstruction after government appointed Harare-based chartered accountant Reggie
Saruchera as the loss-making airline’s administrator to “raise money in any way without the authority of shareholders for the purposes of the reconstruction” to revive its flagging fortunes.
Zimbabwe earlier this year took delivery of one of the Zim Airways’ “new” planes — a Boeing 777 jetliner — but it has already been sent back to the Asian country for repairs before it has made a single commercial flight.
The Daily News can reveal that one of the Zim Airways’ 777 registered 9M-MRL was spotted last weekend at the Jet Midwest Kansas airport base, with the “Z” from Zimbabwe and the “WE” rubbed off the livery, something done on aircraft that have been bought by another carrier so as not to identify with the previous owner.
Energy minister Joram Gumbo, who was the Transport minister during the facilitation of the Zim Airways deal, declined to go into detail about the present status of the aircraft.
“We purchased four Boeing 777 aircraft from Malaysia Airways and an Embraer 145 regional jet from the USA and know one of the 777s is in America but cannot comment on the reasons why. Contact the ministry of Transport,” Gumbo told the Daily News.
Frantic efforts to get comment from Transport minister Joe Biggie Matiza were futile, as he did not respond to calls from the Daily News and questions sent to his mobile.
His deputy Fortune Chasi told the Daily News he had no idea about the issue and referred questions to Matiza, who was said to be in Beijing on business and reportedly returned home last weekend.
Jet Midwest is in the business of buying used aircraft from airlines and selling them for spares, leasing them or selling them off to other players.
Most recently, Jet Midwest acquired Kenya Airways Boeing 777-300 ER and an El AL Israeli Airline’s Boeing 767-300 ER.
The Daily News can report that only two of the three planes have been paid for in full, with the third still awaiting the fulfilment of payment.
The Malay have decided to sell the aircraft, a decision reportedly taken by Price Waterhouse Coopers which has placed the airline under curatorship as it spearheads its restructuring after persistent loss of revenue following the devastating impact of two jetliner disasters.
The Malaysia Airways’ restructuring follows wrenching tragedies for the airline following the unexplained disappearance of Flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March and the shooting down of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. The aircraft bought by Zim Airways were retired by Malaysia Airways due to age as well as their questionable safety record which had raised a lot of questions.
Malaysia Airways has now purchased the ultra-modern Boeing 787s to replace its 777s fleet.
There have been swirling concern about Zim Airways’ decision to purchase these condemned aircraft that are over 20 years old.
It now turns out one of the four Boeing 777-200 ER (Extended Range) has been sold to Jet Midwest — an American full service commercial aircraft, engine and spare parts trading company, possibly to be cannibalised for spares.
As it is, none of the aircraft bought by government are in Zimbabwe.
The aircraft that was delivered to Harare and returned back to Kuala Lumpur was emblazoned with the tail number Z-RGM after the deal was brokered by Simba Chikore — the son-in-law of Mugabe — who was the chief operations officer of Air Zimbabwe.
Chikore was part of the delegation that travelled to Malaysia to take delivery of the aircraft.
Since the time the plane was taken back to Malaysia for routine maintenance, a service required by civil aviation law to be performed periodically after a number of hours of cycles of flight, it is yet to return.
While the plane was said to have been sent back for A-Check maintenance, it’s unclear why it required this service when the 777 never flew since its arrival.
According to experts, A-Check maintenance refers to checks that are carried out on an aeroplane every eight to 10 weeks — where “filters will be changed, key systems (like hydraulics in the “control surfaces” that steer the aircraft) will be lubricated and a detailed inspection of all the emergency equipment (like inflatable slides) is completed”.
Government had said it was due to receive the remaining two wide-bodied aircraft from Malaysia Airlines, which were to be used by the new airline whose ownership has prompted more questions than answers — although the government, which initially distanced itself from the secretive carrier, now says it owns it.
Source: Daily News