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NewsDay

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AirZim planes grounded in SA

Transport
AIR Zimbabwe’s two A320 Airbuses have been grounded at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the last four months amid disclosures that the planes were unserviceable.

AIR Zimbabwe’s two A320 Airbuses have been grounded at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the last four months amid disclosures that the planes were unserviceable, NewsDay has learnt.

Paidamoyo Muzulu

Grounding of the Airbuses adds to the woes of the national carrier that now has only two planes in the air servicing the Harare- Johannesburg route and the domestic market. The two are a Boeing 737 and the leased Embraer jet.

The third functional plane is a Boeing 767 which is usually used when the 737 is down or when President Robert Mugabe is travelling outside the country.

Three MA60’s acquired from China a couple of years ago have also remained in the hangars as their potential to get back to the skies has been ruled out.

Yesterday, an insider told NewsDay that: “The Airbuses have been at OR Tambo for the last four months and are incurring storage charges which are rising by the day as they remain unfixed. They were taken to South Africa for C-Checks.”

C-Check refers to the comprehensive overhaul of aircraft after a certain amount of time or usage. The source added: “When one of the Airbuses was flying, the airline used to cannibalise the parked one for parts. One of the planes needs its landing gear replaced.” Contacted for comment last night, Airzim spokesperson Shingai Taruvinga confirmed the Airbuses were grounded in SA, but could not give more details.

A senior official at the airline also confirmed that the Airbuses had been grounded, but could not give further details. “It’s true that they (Airbuses) are in South Africa since we don’t have the capacity to service them here. One of the planes has a landing gear problem and the lessor is looking at replacing it soonest,” the official said.

The senior official also confirmed that the airline was conducting C-Checks on two Boeings locally and these will be completed soon. “We need about $1,5 million to complete the C-Checks on the Boeing 767 and Boeing 737 at our workshops and I suppose that should be done within the next three weeks,” the official added.

NewsDay also established that the national airline was paying over $4 million a year in insurance to its new brokers – Champions Insurance. According to documents, the Airzim pays Euro455 447 and $484 509 per quarter as insurance premiums. But, the senior official, while confirming that Champions Insurance were the new local brokers, queried the new figures.

“Considering where we are coming from, we are now paying $2 million annually instead of the $4,8 million that we used to pay and this makes a saving of $2,8 million,” the official said.

The official, however, did not provide documents to prove the airline’s claims that they were paying less currently. Airzim has been struggling to finance its operations and has consistently been on the market seeking fresh operating capital and funds to retire its huge pile of debts standing at over $150 million.