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Remembering the late East African Airways, evasive revival of EAC (PHOTOS)

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CHANGE OF GUARDS – East African Airways Corporation , more commonly known as
East African Airways , was an airline jointly run by Kenya , Tanzania, and
Uganda . It was set up on 1 January 1946, starting operations the same year.
The airline was headquartered in the Sadler House in Nairobi , Kenya. The corporation
was dissolved in 1977 amid deteriorated relations among the three countries.
The 1943 Conference of Governors of Britain’s East African
Territory was attended by government officials, aviation and railroad experts,
businessmen, and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) officials. They
formed a committee to plan for the handling of airline services for the
promotion and control of civil aviation that would be run by a single
enterprise, which would provide feeder flights, connect intermediate points
along the trunk lines, and operate local traffic and charter services.
A draft proposal for the creation of the airline was made
public in June 1945. The aims had changed a bit since 1943, but the needs for
the formation of the company were almost intact. The enterprise that was to be
set up would link England with South Africa via Cairo, Khartoum , and Northern
Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia. On 30 October 1945, the act that called for the
creation of the East African Air Transport Authority , the organ that among
other things would create East African Airways (EAA), was signed.
With an initial £50,000 capital, ownership of the company
was split between the Kenya Colony (67.7 percent), Uganda (22.6 percent), the
Tanganyika Territory (9 percent), and Zanzibar (0.7 percent).  BOAC provided management and technical
expertise.  Following test flights in
late 1945, operations started from Eastleigh Aerodrome on 1 January 1946. The
regional routes linking the three East African countries was opened.
EAA had operated a service to the Congo in conjunction with
Sabena, stiff competition from airlines like Central African Airways and South
African Airways (SAA). On 6 February 1952, following the death of King George
VI, Queen Elizabeth II began her return to the United Kingdom on one of EAA’s
newer aircraft, a DC-3. She was carried from Nanyuki to Entebbe, where she
connected with a BOAC aircraft. This event marked EAA as being the first
airline not based in the United Kingdom to carry a reigning monarch. Also, during
1952, the airline commenced the flying of pilgrims to and from Mecca in
conjunction with Aden Airways .
In early 1957, services to the United Kingdom were launched
on a once-weekly basis, at first operated by BOAC on EAA’s behalf and then in
EAA’s own right with ex-BOAC Argonauts . This tourist-class service had low
load factors when it was started, as it competed with same-fare BOAC Britannias
and Viscounts .  Also, in early 1957, the
Nairobi– Aden route was started; in mid-September the same year the route was
extended farther east, from Aden to Bombay via Karachi.
In 1960, two Comets ordered by the corporation in 1958 were
put into service on the London –Rome –Khartoum–Entebbe
be–Nairobi, London–Rome–Khartoum–Nairobi– Dar es Salaam, and
Nairobi–Aden–Karachi–Bombay routes. The same year, EAA reactivated
Seychelles-Kilimanjaro Air Transport, a 1952-founded airline otherwise known as
“SKAT” that had previously ceased operations, as a wholly owned
subsidiary that flew some routes for EAA.
In 1967 the three countries joined forces and created a
loosely binding economic union known as the East African Community (EAC).
Within its mandate was the joint management of the aviation industry renamed
East African Airways, now African-owned and African-operated, along with a
postal service, railways and road services. 
SKAT was later re-christened Simbair Ltd when it was decided that EAA
would no longer operate charter services; the renaming effectively took place
in May 1971 and became an EAA’s wholly owned subsidiary that took over SKAT and
EAA passenger and cargo charter operations.
By March 1975, employment by EAA was 4,700. At this time,
the fleet consisted of sixteen aircraft (five DC-3s, three DC-9-30s , four
F.27s , and four Vickers Super VC10s) that worked an extensive domestic network
within the three member countries plus international services to Aden, Addis
Ababa, Athens,  Blantyre , Bombay,
Bujumbura, Cairo, Copenhagen , Frankfurt, Karachi, Kigali, Kinshasa , London,
Lourenço Marques,
Lusaka , Mauritius , Mogadishu , Rome, Seychelles ,
Tananarive , and Zurich.
While the airline’s slogan promoted unity with its “Fly
Amongst Friends” slogan, behind the scenes it was clear that officials in
charge of airline operations were literally at each other’s throats. What began
as minor squabbles over in-flight beverages ultimately led to the breakup of a
once promising and international partnership. Ugandan officials balked when
they discovered that EAA was serving only Kenya’s national beer, Tusker, a
strong symbol of Kenyan pride. This upset Ugandans who wanted their own beers
on board, in addition to their potent gin, Waragi. They filed an official
complaint with the EAC’s Kenya rep, who claimed it had nothing to do with
nationalism, despite the Tusker l read “My Beer, My Country.” Instead, it was
purely about economics. Tuskeer lightweight disposable bottles, not heavy glass
ones, which meant the airline could stock twice as many, serve more customers
and make more money.
Fights over beer may sound trivial, but stakes were high.
The airline’s international routes allowed it to compete with the biggest names
in aviation at the time — KLM, Pan American, Air France — and literally and
figuratively put East Africa on the map. In many ways the business battles were
unsurprising considering the vastly different postcolonial governing styles and
economic ideologies. You had capitalism in Kenya under the business minded Jomo
Kenyatta, socialism in Tanzania under Nyerere and militarism in Uganda under
the Milton Obote and Idi Amin regimes. Kenyatta’s forward-thinking capitalism
differed vastly from Nyerere’s socialism.
In Uganda, things were OK for the first couple of years, but
then Obote was kicked out in a coup in 1971, and Amin, with next to no business
acumen, took power. That didn’t sit well with either Tanzania or Kenya and
sparked serious regional tensions. Suspicions were so high that at one time it
was even claimed in some circles that the British and Israelis were conspiring
to bust up EAA to benefit Kenya, already the regional economic powerhouse. Even
the location of maintenance facilities caused drama. Kenya traditionally had
the best facilities and maintenance crews, and ticket sales went back to the
airline’s headquarters in Kenya, but Uganda and Tanzania were understandably
Kenyan Cabinet Minister Bruce Mackenzie was an alleged
“secret agent” for British and Israeli intelligence. Many suspected that the
Kenyans were trying to run EAA into the ground so they could pick up the pieces
and create their own national airline, which they did.
Management assistance from Aer Lingus was contracted in
mid-1976 amid deteriorating relations between the three countries that ran the
airline. By February 1977, EAA was saddled with $120 million in debt, and the
National Bank of Kenya had underwritten four years worth of massive loans.
Financial difficulties deepened when both Tanzania and Uganda struggled or
failed to pay their outstanding debts for the operations of the airline. Uganda
and Tanzania failed to make payments, forcing the bank to close the accounts.
EAA couldn’t pay its fuel bills, which led to Shell Oil cutting off the fleet’s
fuel supply.
Both Kenya and Uganda had established their own national
airlines before the folding of the corporation. With Uganda Airlines forming in
1976 and Kenya Airways in 1977. Tanzania followed in April 1977 with the
formation of Air Tanzania. Distrust among the members of the East African
Community (EAC) surfaced again in January 1977 when Kenya insisted that the
East African Airways Corporation restrict some of its long-distance flights
because Tanzania and Uganda had failed to make adequate contributions to the
upkeep of the airline. Tanzania retaliated by closing its border with Kenya…By
the end of June the EAC had effectively ceased to exist. Kenya, which already
had maintenance crews, facilities and pilots, pounced. It took what planes it
could and repainted them, launching Kenya Airways two days later, which ended
up being one of the most successful African airlines of all time. Over the
years, Uganda Airlines and Tanzania Air collapsed owing to management issues.
Other than the anti-Amin propaganda, the fundamental reasons
behind the collapse of the EAC in 1977 have repeatedly been distorted. Since
the commencement of efforts to revive the EAC over a decade ago, its success is
yet to be fully realised. EAC has expanded to include Rwanda, Burundi and South
Sudan thus a population of more than 125m, a land area of 1.83m sq. miles and a
combined GDP of over US $60m. Iddi Amin is long gone but squabbles based on
almost the same old fundamental issues keep arising. No member state has taken
the trouble to even suggest reviving the East African Airways. Instead, some
individual member states are priding themselves in reviving their respective
national airlines as if to prepare for a major aviation tournament. On the
other hand, a revival of the East African Airways would serve the EAC dream
much better.


—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: August 27, 2019 at 02:02PM

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