February 25, 2016 By Tanu Jalloh
Just 3 years into the airline business and after servicing 604, 170 passengers in Western and Central Africa in 2015 alone,Air Cote d’Ivoire is set to increase its fleet to 9 after purchase and delivery on 7 January of a third brand new Q400NextGen aircraft.
The forth plane in the Q series, all manufactured at Bombardier’s facility headquartered in Montréal, Canada, will be delivered in March 2016, according to the Ivory Coast’s national carrier. Bombardier is the world’s leading manufacturer of both planes and trains.
The partnership, comprising a state ownership of 65% represented on the board by 6 directors, Air France, the technical partner, holds 20% shares and GOLDENROD, an Ivorian private group, with 15%, represented by 2 directors each.
The company was established in May of 2012 and effectively started commercial operations in January 2013 with General AbdoulayeCoulibaly as president of the board of directors.
“We consider the company as a tool for regional integration and a proof that we can run a sustainable business. To guarantee that sustainability we will need capacity. This is why we have created a school where the best can be trained to become pilots and technicians and sent abroad for further training,” said Gen. Coulibaly.
He applauded the role played by the Ivorian government to create a strategic partnership with Air France, the airport authority, the Ambassador to Canada and for putting together a solid team, now 482 – comprising 63 pilots, 137 flight attendants, 30 technicians and 252 ground staff.
On Friday 29, January 2016 the minister of transport, GaoussouToure, unveiled the Q400, the third of four in the Bombardier family, at the south terminal of the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, 16 kilometres south east of Abidjan.
He said the airline was the initiative of President AlassaneOuattara, a 74-year-old US trained economist, who came to power in a 2010 election, characterised by a power struggle that badly affected the country’s economy.
“I will soon travel again to Canada to initiate more business deals especially after we have proven to be very reliable and have won their confidence,” the minister said, adding that the government wanted Air Cote d’Ivoire to make Abidjan the hub for air transport in the Western and Central African region.
He assured that his ministry had risen up to the challenge by improving on the infrastructure and extending the airport facilities in Abidjan and five others across the country for domestic flights, improving on the quality of service and making security a priority with improved equipment.
“In all of this, our primary goal is to provide Ivorians with quality and affordable flights, target the markets in Western and Central Africa, increase the number of tourists who visit Abidjan to more than 1,000 per week and considerably cut down on the waiting time for passengers,” he said.
With a fleet of 4 Bombardier Q400 next generation aircraft, the world’s most modern turboprop, according to representatives of the manufacturers in Canada, and 5 airbuses of A320 family, the company’s managing director, Rene Decurey, said they were ready to increase international flight destinations from 18 to 23 and from three to five locally.
To date the airliner serves Abidjan, Accra, Abuja, Bamako, Brazzaville, Conakry, Cotonou, Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Kinshasa, Lagos, Libreville, Lome, Monrovia, N’Djamena, Niamey, Ouagadougou, Pointe Noire, Yaounde. The domestic network which opened in 2014 now serves Odienne, Man, Korhogo, Bouake, San-Pedro and Abidjan.
The burgeoning airliner started with a registered capital of 25 billion franc CFA (US$41.2millon) three years ago and that is expected to increase to 65 billion franc CFA (US$107 million) in the first quarter of 2016 following the recapitalisation of the company in 2014.
The MD said: “With the promising results of the first three years of practice, and in accordance with the business plan, a new capital increase to raise it to more than 100 billion franc CFA [US$165 million] is planned in the year 2016”.
In between the purchase of the third Bombardier Q400 aircraft delivered on 7 January 2016 and the fourth expected to land in Abidjan by end of March this year, the company had also secured and is expected to deliver on a 120-seaterA319 airbus in the next two weeks, according to Mr Decurey.
He told a press conference at the Radisson Blu hotel in Abidjan that the Dash 8 Q400 next generation aircraft was as fast as a jet plane, quiet and energy efficient.
“It is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. It offers exceptional reliability of flight, has a spacious luggage, offers 7 business class seats and 60 economy class seats with an office equipped to serve hot and cold meals,” he added.
He however cautioned that like with any business in the launch stage the business plan provided for a negative result for the first few years of exercise, adding that although the results had improved over the years it would remain negative till 2018 when they hope to start making profits.
He noted that air transport was a highly capital intensive industry but expressed optimism that Air Cote d’Ivoire, having been able to take off and invest in the first phase with the support of its shareholders, had already adapted to the market, “thanks to its privileged partners, the media and travel agencies, whose assistance is highly appreciated”.
Mr Decurey announced plans by the company to complete training for 15 young pilots by 2017 and 20 airplane technicians 2018, the creation of a well-equipped training school for pilots in partnership with INPHB and Airways Formation and a training school for airplane mechanics in partnership with INPHB and the Aeronautic Institute Amaury of Grange (IAAG).
The Q Series
Sameer Adam, the Sales Director at Bombardier the manufacturers, told Politico after the presser at Radisson Blu that the Q400, the latest in the Q Series family, “provides unmatched performance and operational flexibility”, making it the world’s most modern turboprop.
He said the aircraft was very comfortable with active noise and vibration suppression to make passengers enjoy a quieter cabin, adding that the system rendered noise and vibration levels below those of even some jets, a technology that represented a leap forward for turboprops.
The aircraft’s range capabilities are revolutionary. It can perform short-haul routes of up to 500 nautical miles very effectively, allowing for longer routes with nearly jet-like block times and more flights per day. The aircraft performs within a variety of business models, either replacing older, less efficient aircraft, or supplementing jets. It can access smaller airports, alternate runways, high density and remote airfields that have less runway or unpaved airfields.
The Q400 is the only modern turboprop commercial aircraft to feature an auxiliary power unit for ground operations to minimise engine related costs and provide higher operational flexibility. This can translate to over $80,000 of annual fuel and maintenance savings per aircraft over a non-auxiliary power unit equipped conventional turboprop.
It is environmentally friendly. It burns 30% less fuel and produces 30% lower emissions on short-haul routes where it has replaced similar capacity jet aircraft, according to the manufactures. It is also one of the quietest aircraft flying today with an advanced propulsion system that leads to significantly reduced community noise pollution, making it ideal for city-centre airports.
*Tanu Jalloh is former Editor of Concord Times newspaper. He is currently a lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, and Business Editor at Politico Newspaper