After they unsuccessfully attempted to secure five Fokker-50 planes from Ethiopian Airlines
because private companies are not allowed to have aircraft with over fifty seats, National Airways Plc, a locally based private air service, announced it imported what will become the first private and commercial chartered helicopter in Ethiopia.
According to a company official, National Airways, formed by Abera Lemi (Captain), decided to import the helicopter when they were unable to get the Fokkers.
Few Ethiopian companies provide charter service and those that do have relied on small planes.
Captain Abera told Capital that his company has imported an AS350 model helicopter and they plan to increase their numbers in the future.
The Captain and owner of the company pointed out several advantages helicopters bring to the country.
Construction, mining sectors and medical emergencies are what need fast access to places that are hard to reach, either because of lack of roads or transportation, topography, or due to the low number of airports.
Recently National Airways concluded a deal with South Korean (MGM) Hospital, one of the modern hospitals in the country, to transport patients in life threatening emergencies. This makes it the first company to provide air ambulance service in Ethiopia as well.
“The deal with the hospital is a major step for the country to modernize the medical sector. This will also bring more tourists here,” Captain Abera explained.
Until now helicopters were leased from Kenya and South Africa, or arrangements were made to use National Defence Force’s helicopters to serve the need here.
Currently, locally registered private airlines are only allowed to fly aircraft with 20 or fewer seats.
This has been criticized by operators and sector experts who argue that if the private aviation industry was allowed to expand, like other countries, more revenue would come into the nation.