Air Zimbabwe yesterday grounded Mbuya Nehanda, a Boeing 737-200ER, for mandatory maintenance expected to last over a month.
The airline has largely been operating two serviceable aircraft and whenever there was a technical fault on one, delays and/or cancellations became inevitable.
This leaves the airline with two planes — the 767-200 christened “Chimanimani” and a leased one to service its routes.
Another aircraft has since been leased to service some routes due to Mbuya Nehanda’s grounding.
In a statement, Air Zimbabwe said the maintenance check was in line with aviation quality and safety standards.
“Air Zimbabwe wishes to advise its valued passengers that our aircraft, B737 registration Z-WPA popularly known as ‘Mbuya Nehanda’ will be grounded for a mandatory maintenance check which is expected to be completed after 45 days with effect from midnight 30 December 2018, in line with aviation quality and safety standards,” said the statement.
“Mbuya Nehanda services the Harare/Bulawayo/Victoria Falls/Harare as well as Harare/Dar es Salaam routes. This check will be undertaken to enhance the operational efficiency of this aircraft which has dutifully serviced the airline and its passengers reliably.
“As Air Zimbabwe the safety of our operations is of paramount importance hence the adoption of this hard but necessary course. The maintenance of the aircraft is part of the broader scheme of reconstruction of the airline that is currently underway.”
It said appropriate and adequate measures have been put in place to ensure that there is little or no interruption to its schedules and travel plans.
The airline said it will avail all relevant updates on its website and social media platforms.
In an interview yesterday, Air Zimbabwe corporate affairs manager, Mr Tafadzwa Mazonde said the B737 was undergoing major maintenance works.
“We are just hoping that the Reserve Bank will be supportive of the maintenance programme in terms of availing foreign currency to purchase the necessary spares to undertake the maintenance. It is a major check because we have to update softwares, stripping the whole aircraft and replacing a number of components.
“It is like we are rebuilding the whole aircraft to extend its life. In the absence of foreign currency it may take longer but if payments are made we hope to finish in 45 days,” said Mr Mazonde.
He said they had hired another aircraft to replace the B737 in order to avoid inconveniencing their customers and schedules.
Sources at the airline said the plane would be retired as it has served for 33 years.
“This plane was acquired in 1986 and it likely not going to come back into service. It is very old. It is likely going to be replaced,” said the source.
The source said Air Zimbabwe acquired the plane in 1986 and has been flying it since then as one of its most reliable aircraft.
Air Zimbabwe, which has been consistently underperforming in the last few years, was placed under reconstruction on October 4 this year in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act (Chapter 24:27).