Korongo Airlines: Ready for Take-Off

 

   In the coming months Korongo Airlines, affiliate of amongst others of Brussels Airlines, will start-up  new regional and international links from its home base Lubumbashi (in the South Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo) with the ambition of becoming a “Regional Airline” in Central Africa, George Forrest, president of the executive council announced at the end of August 2012.

Boeing 737-3M8(WL) OO-LTM

Korongo's winglets equipped Boeing 737-3M8(WL) OO-LTM (c/n 25070) taking off from Loana airport, Lubumbashi on August 22nd, 2012.

Today, Korongo operates two aircraft on five return flights to Kinshasa (a distance of 1.600 km) and since April 19th, 2012 two flights to Johannesburg, South Africa on weekly basis.

 Next month, the company will add links to Mbuji-Mayi (capital of Eastern-Kasai - Central DRC), the mining city of Kolwezi (Katanga) followed by Goma (Northern Kivu) and Kisangani (Eastern province – North-Eastern DRC)

Mr Forrest explained that after the intra Congolese flight, international links will follow to Lusaka (Zambia), Nairobi (Kenya), Entebbe (Uganda), Luanda (Angola) and finally Douala (Cameroun). Establishing these International links will be done “in compliance with the international rules” in contrast with the other Congolese airlines which are all “blacklisted” by the European Union. Mr Forrest also said that Korongo will “pre-position” an aircraft at Kinshasa to serve the West-African region. The company aircraft are now housed in a brand-new hangar next to Mr Forrest’s business aircraft at Loana airport near Lubumbashi.

Korongo Airlines hangar

The new Korongo Airlines hangar at Lubumbashi's Loana airport.

Korongo started its activities last April with two aircraft – a British Aerospace BAe 146-200 and a Boeing 737-300 originating from the Brussels Airlines fleet. A second BAe 146 already flies in Europe for the Belgian company but already painted in Korongo (“Migrating bird” in the local Swahili language) colours.

British Aerospace BAe 14200 OO-MJE

Night operations for British Aerospace BAe 146-200 OO-MJE (c/n E2192) at Lubumbashi.

Several Western embassies (including that of the United States), UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) have authorized their personnel to use the aircraft of the company in spite of the fact that Korongo is also “blacklisted” by the European Union (which effectively bans them from use in Europe, due to the non-conformity of the Congolese Aviation Administration). However, as the aircraft remain registered in Belgium and are operated under a Belgian AOC (Air Operator Certificate – an Air Transport certificate delivered by the Air Safety authority) the airliners themselves are not blacklisted.

Mr Forrest also explained that his team is working hard to take Korongo off the blacklist and that such a step forward could also contribute in the effort to take all of the DRC off the list.

The capital of the airline is managed by a holding of which Brussels Airlines contributes for 50.5 % while the remaining 49.5 % is in the hands of the Groupe George Forrest International (GFI) which is owned by this influential business man who is active in several Congolese sectors, particularly in the mining industry (GFI employs 15.000 people principally in Katanga) and the public sector.  According to Forrest, the holding is willing to open up 20 to 30% of its capital for Congolese investors.

Korongo is targeting the passengers flying within the Democratic Republic of Congo – a country where air transport is often the only way to travel between different provinces due to the quasi total absence of road- and railroad infrastructure and the lack of international security standards.

British Aerospace BAe 146-200 OO-MJE

British Aerospace BAe 146-200 OO-MJE (c/n E2192) at Lubumbashi awaiting another flight.

The company employs 200 persons, 97 % of which is Congolese according to Korongo’s Director General Christophe Allard.

British Aerospce BAe 146-200 OO-DJJ

The second British Aerospace BAe 146-200 OO-DJJ (c/n E2196) for the moment still operated by Brussels Airlines on European routes is soon to join the Korogo fleet in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It took two years of negotiating and the GFI to set up the new airline. Earlier this year, the Congolese president Joseph Kabila finally agreed to sign the license approving the import of the aircraft allowing the first flight on April 16, 2012.

 

 

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© Belgian Wings (August 2012)

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated 07/11/11 10:59   Daniel Brackx

brackda@gmail.com