A Nigerian startup airline, Green Africa Airways on Thursday announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the purchase of 50 A220-300 aircraft from Airbus, the European planemaker, shaking the global aviation industry oncemore after a similar announcement with Boeing late 2018.
The purchase is set to be “one of the major orders to be placed globally for the A220 programme and the largest ever from the African continent,” a statement by Airbus said in Singapore.
The new deal seemed to have knocked off a previous MoU signed with US planemaker, Boeing for the acquisition of 100 units of the B737 Max in 2018 which had received a similar media attention. The accidents recorded by the 737 max with Indonesia’s Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines may have led to the new decision.
“Together with Airbus, we are incredibly proud to announce the largest order ever for the A220 from the African continent,” Babawande Afolabi, Founder & CEO of Green Africa Airways said after the signing. “The Green Africa story is a story of entrepreneurial boldness, strategic foresight and an unwavering commitment to using the power of air travel to create a better future,” Afolabi said.
Speaking from the Singapore Airshow, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, Christian Scherer said the European planemaker was “excited about the Green Africa project.”
“We are excited about the Green Africa project, its legitimate ambition and its professionalism, evidenced by their most discerning choice for their operating assets. The unique characteristics of the A220 will allow the airline to unlock destinations and route pairs that previously would have been considered non-viable,” Scherer said.
– Green Africa building formidable airline –
The Lagos-based Green Africa Airways received its air transport license in 2018 and has been in the process of obtaining an air operator’s certificate with plans to operate within Nigeria and build a pan-African network.
The start up had in mid-2018 completed its series-A round of financing with Kuramo Capital, a pan-African independent investment management group based in New York, aviation sources close to the management said.
Green Africa’s founder and chief executive, Afolabi had in 2018 said the airline was looking to “building a world-class airline that will unlock a new realm of positive possibilities for millions of customers.” He said it was “a bold symbol of the dynamism, resilience and soaring entrepreneurial drive of the next generation of Nigerians and Africans.”
“The A220 is the only aircraft purpose-built for the 100-150 seat market; it delivers unbeatable fuel efficiency and widebody passenger comfort in a single-aisle aircraft,” the joint statement by Airbus and Green Africa announced on Thursday.
The new airline
settled for the A220 because it “brings together state-of-the-art aerodynamics,
advanced materials and Pratt & Whitney’s latest-generation PW1500G geared
turbofan engines to offer at least 20 percent lower fuel burn per seat with
significantly lower emissions and a reduced noise footprint,” officials said compared
to previous generation of aircraft.
The A220 offers the performance of larger single-aisle aircraft. At the end of January 2020, the A220 had accumulated 658 orders.
– Boeing 737Max crisis –
The African aviation industry had anticipated that Green Africa Airways would begin operation from 2019 to ease the difficulties in the Nigerian and African aviation market but experts said the disasters that affected Boeing last year could have also affected the earlier order for the B737 Max aircrafts.
Many previous orders for the B737 Max had been suspended or cancelled globally due to the grounding of the aircraft model by US aviation authorities after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that led to a turmoil for the US planemaker last year.
The ordering of 100 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets valued at $11.7 billion at list prices, tentative deal for 50 aircraft plus 50 options “has the potential to be the biggest purchase by an African carrier,” Boeing had said in 2018.
– Global aviation crisis hits Boeing –
At the time the 737 Max was announced in 2011 and entered service in 2017, the plane was touted as the next generation of a tried-and-tested workhorse of consumer aviation, experts said, but the aircraft model has had a troubled existence that culminated in 2 fatal crashes just 5 months apart that raised eyebrows globally and made passengers to be scared of entering the aircraft.
The Boeing 737 Max was designed to have more fuel-efficient engines and updated avionics and cabins with longer range and lower operating cost.
It had enough specs in common with previous 737 models so that pilots could switch back and forth between the two with ease, unfortunately, that became its albatross as many pilots could not handle such issues due to poor training, supplies and kits by the manufacturer and airlines.
Two fatal crashes involving the plane within five months of each other killed a combined 346 people and led to several questions and inquiries about the plane’s design and features meant to make it easier for pilots to fly.
The crashes also called attention to training standards, regulatory oversight, and pilot experience.
Since the second crash in March, the plane has been grounded around the world as Boeing works to fix what appears to be a fundamental design flaw.
“I will look at it and get back to you,”Oyinade Sobajo, Senior Manager, Digital and Communications at Green Africa Airways told News Central on phone after an earlier text message requesting information to know if the Boeing 737 Max orders were still being expected or the MoU had been cancelled due to the grounding of the aircraft model. The reply was yet to be sent hours after the request, despite reminders.
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