By Gerald Maguranyanga
GLOBAL aviation giant, award-winning Qatar Airways, launches the much-anticipated inaugural flight into Zimbabwe today. Last night, the flight was expected to touch down at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, late in the morning, today.
It is momentous that Qatar flies into Zimbabwe for the first time ever, at a most-turbulent time for global aviation.
When virtually “everyone” was shrinking flights because it had just become untenable to travel for the majority of regular fliers, from nowhere, boom, Qatar launches into Zimbabwe. Good news, indeed, for Zimbabwean aviation in these trying times.
COVID-19 is a formidable opponent to jetsetting. Possibly the biggest hindrance to civilian flying since the end of World War II in 1945, some 76 years ago.
A very long period, indeed, in which global aviation flourished; from the pre-jet era to nowadays wherein the skies are dominated by sophisticated, comfortable, safe aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350-900, coincidentally the superb aircraft Qatar will use for mission Zimbabwe.
Leading aviation giants such as British_Airways, Qantas and even the decorated African airline, Ethiopian Airways, have made a mark over many decades.
But the dominance of these flying giants would not hold unshaken, forever. Enter Qatar and the situation escalated to another level.
Qatar Airways Company, is a Doha headquartered, State-owned flag carrier of the Arab nation of Qatar.
Notwithstanding the challenging presence of many long-running global aviation giants, from their operational launch in 1994, and some 26 years later, today, as we would say in the sporting, had punched way-above their weight division. Remarkable!
The worldwide flying industry is punishing, dog-eat-dog, and unforgiving to wannabe new entrants, primarily because of its demanding, “expensive-to-satisfy, safety regulations”.
In a few decades, just two actually, the ambitious Qatar Airways has morphed into a bona fide global aviation giant; with a fleet of 200 plus aircraft and a gigantic staff complement touching on 50 000 souls! Impressive!
Qatar’s landmarks are too many to mention. Its impressive safety first culture, however — the overriding single concern in any aviation endeavour — has won it many awards.
Yes, the safety culture at Qatar Airways is outstanding and an achieved daily standard and a whole story for another day.
Qatar’s membership of the distinct global aviation alliance, the so-called One World grouping, signifies absolutely that it is now truly one of the finest airlines in the world. Big up Qatar!
Now let us talk about Qatar to Zimbabwe. What is it offering? Qatar will depart its base at Hamad International Airport, Qatar at 0220hrs early in the morning, destined for Harare, via Lusaka, a “technical stop”, landing at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (FVRG) with an ETA (expected time of arrival) at 1120hrs in the same morning.
Booking a Qatar flight is seamless via an app, downloadable fast onto any mobile device.
The app has confirmed the long-haul flight duration as exactly 10 hours.
Qatar confirm a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday scheduling into and departing Harare the same days.
The airliner to be used, “equipment” in industry parlance, my personal favourite, the silky Boeing 787 “Dreamliner”, an exquisite, safe, tech-laden wide-body aircraft.
However, just for the launch Flight QR1455 today, for reasons unknown yet Qatar Airways will use an Airbus A350/900, a world-leading, wide-body airliner in its class. Maybe this had something to do with Qatar being the preferred launch customer of the celebrated A350 machine, itself powered by the humongous, Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97, one of the largest aircraft engines the world has ever seen.
Behind the scenes Qatar has co-operated with Zimbabwe’s Transport minister Felix Mhona, the Zimbabwean aviation agencies, being the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and the Airports Company of_Zimbabwe to birth Flight QR1455.
Maybe, just maybe, as per Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra, “Zimbabwe is open for business.”