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Air Botswana’s new wings did not come cheap

Publishing Date : 23 July, 2018


The two 70-seater ATR 72-600s recently purchased by government for Air Botswana might have cost around P500 million, BusinessPost has established. ATR 72-600 price ranges from P190 million to P260 million as it varies with many factors, but information received by this publication is that government has purchased brand new flying machines which might cost around P240 million each.

Launched in 2007 with first flight taking to the air in 2010, ATR 72-600’s highest value is at P260 million according to some news sources. According to Aircraft Value News the list price of ATR 72-600 was P216 million in 2015. Recently, Botswana signed an order for two ATR 72-600s. This is after the national flag carrier operated with old ATR-500s who are now outdated.

Air Botswana, founded 30 years ago, has been operating ATR -500 since 1996 and the national airline has been an operator for French based aviation company, Avions de Transport Regional(ATR) for two decades. This latest purchase comes after the national carrier operated with ageing fleet for years. Air Botswana is still waiting for the purchase of an unspecified 100-seater jet which is expected to take on the Gaborone-Cape Town route after the grounding of the Cemair plane leased to Air Botswana which operated the route for three years.

According to experts in aviation and engineering, operating with old planes is the reason that made the Air Botswana to be of low value as government has been trying to privatize it for years. Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila agrees with the pundits and wants to make Air Botswana a P1 billion project as it enters into privatization. Now valued around P300 million excluding the new purchased planes, the national airline has been operating at a loss for years, affecting the government purse and prompting a move to privatize it.

Mokaila refused to name the cost of the two ATR 72-600s purchased recently. Sources in the ministry said the contract has been signed and transactions were finalized this week. The turboprop machines are expected to be in Botswana November this year and will be used on the skies during the festive season.

After accepting the Air Botswana-ATR contract the national flag carrier CEO, Agnes Khunwana was quoted by the ATR website saying: “ATR is very reliable and has served us very well for over 20 years. The aircraft are very efficient and generally have favourable economics. Acquiring the new generation ATR 72-600 in a dual class configuration would be our most customer-centric development this year which I am confident, would greatly be embrace by our market.”

According to ATR, the ATR 72-600 series is the market leader in the regional aviation segment with a 40 % fuel burn advantage against its turboprop competitors. The ATR 72–600 features several improvements as it is also powered by the new PW127M engines which enable a 5% increase in takeoff power via a "boost function" used only when called for by takeoff conditions.

According to research, the 70-seater turboprop aircraft is more efficient and comfortable than Air Botswana’s older models of ATR-500 as it features lighter seats and larger overhead baggage bins. The aircraft also embraces the latest innovations in the cockpit technology with simplified, integrated LCD advance functions, enhancing safety, improved handling for pilots, in addition to maintenance cost saving and significant weight reduction. For those who want to buy Air Botswana, the latest purchase is touted to be a “proven route opener as it opened 150 routes in 2017 due to its versatility and operational efficiency.



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