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Ethiopian Airlines: The New Spirit of Africa (Part 1) – Aeronautics Online

Ethiopian Airlines: The New Spirit of Africa (Part 1) – Aeronautics Online

Ethiopian Airlines: The New Spirit of Africa (Part 1)

Industry Talk

Since Ethiopian Airlines’ creation on December 21st 1945, the carrier has grown from holding a small fleet of five C-47 aircraft in 1946 to a fleet of over 108 aircraft across 12 different types, including both cargo and passenger variants. In addition the carrier has grown from two destinations to more than 100 destinations on five continents. One question arises though: How has Ethiopian been able to reach the point where it is now? Aeronautics Online will explore the dynamics and the history that has enabled Ethiopian to reach this point and offer an inside view of Ethiopian’s facilities and operations.

History

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An EAL DC-3 at Ethiopians Headquarters.

Ethiopian Airlines was founded in 1945. The carrier was financed with the help of the Ethiopian government, which still is the owner of the company today. Ethiopian’s management and operations were originally managed by TWA.

At the beginning of the carrier’s operations, amajority of its staff were Americans because of TWA’s management of the company. Fitawrari Tafasse, Ethiopia’s Minister of Works and Communications at the time, was one of the very few Ethiopians to work at the airline. In its first years, Ethiopian operated routes to Aden, Djibouti, Khartoum, and Jimma, Ethiopian’s first domestic route, with DC-3 aircraft.

After the 1950s-1970s, Ethiopian began growing its long haul network. Routes connecting Addis Ababa, Ethiopain’s hub, to Athens and Frankfurt were only the start of Ethiopian’s international growth. Cities such a Rome, London, and Madrid began shortly after. While Ethiopian started new routes, it also brought the Boeing 707 and 727 into its fleet.

Then, in 1970, TWA’s management role was changed to “adviser,” and the Ethiopian government became the operator of the airline.

Ethiopian continued to capitalize on its expansion from the 80s to the 2000s with the addition of the Boeing 757 (which is now used solely for cargo), 767, and 777 to the fleet. Ethiopian also ordered of the 787 and A350 and began its first transatlantic flights to Washington DC and New York. The airline added Bangkok to its network and expanded across the African continent to destinations like Maputo, Johannesburg, and Dakar.

What makes Ethiopian the New Spirit of Africa?

Aeronautics Online had the pleasure of touring Ethiopian’s facilities and headquarters in Addis Ababa. The visit displayed how Ethiopian represents innovation and determination in trying to create a new brand image and new image of Africa as a whole. Ethiopian has a range of facilities in Addis Ababa, which include a Catering Center, a Maintenance and Overhaul Center, cargo facilities, a Flight Simulator Training Center, an Aviation Aviation, and a 5 star Hotel, which will open in the coming months.

The Ethiopian Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Center

Ethiopian holds the largest Maintenance Repair and Overhall Center (MRO) service in the African continent. The carrier established its MRO service in 1957 and built its first hanger at Bole airport in 1960. Ethiopian had moved from Lideta Airport as the runway at Lideta was not capable of handling the 707. Today, that original hangar still stands and handles Ethiopian’s fleet of 23 Q400 aircraft.

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Two of Ethiopian’s hangars at Bole Airports, which handles 757, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft.

Ethiopian operates three otherhangars at the airport with one facilitating the 757/777, another operating on the 737 series and private aircraft, and the third, the most recently built hangar, operating on 767/787 aircraft.

Zelalem Tsehaye, Head of Ethiopain’s MRO, said: “with the vision 2025 in full affect, Ethiopian will need to build a new hangar every 2 years [to accommodate the growth of Ethiopian’s fleet].”

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An Ethiopian 787 engine being replaced.
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Ethiopian Airlines first hangar which caters to Ethiopians Q400 aircraft.

In addition to its hangar facilities, Ethiopian has Engine and Component Maintenance workshops which hold all the equipment needed to repair and overhaul planes, engines, and individual components. In addition to standard overhall capabilities, these facilities allow Ethiopian to dismantle engines across both Rolls Royce and GE engine types.

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The rebuilding of an engine for the 777 aircraft.

Ethiopian offers Line Maintenance services at stations where it flies with Washington and Lome being two examples where it offers this service. Ethiopian is especially known for its quality and has an exceptional reputation for repairing aircraft with it being at the top of the list to only compete with the likes of Morocco, Egypt and South Africa. Evidence of this reputation for maintenance was emphasized by a Russian VIM 777 that was present at Ethiopian’s facility during our tour.

The Ethiopian Aviation Academy

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With the need for pilots, cabin crew, and technicians grows across Africa, Ethiopian Airlines plays a pivotal role in the training of essential crew members. The Ethiopain Aviation Academy (EAA) is the largest aviation academy in Africa and has been recognized by the ICAO as a Training Center of Excellence. The EAA offers training for pilots, aircraft technicians, flight attendants, and ground crew staff. Ethiopian also offers training for those who wish to enter management or leadership at the company. The EAA is available for students from a variety of african carriers like LAM, the national carrier of Mozambique. Ethiopian’s Aviation Academy plays a vital role in expanding the workforce in the ever-growing aviation industry in Africa. The EAA plans to welcome 4,000 students a year.

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A Plack commemorating John C Robinson for his help in establishing the Ethiopian Aviation Academy.

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Simulator Facilities

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An Ethiopian Airlines A350 simulator.

Ethiopian Airlines’ Aviation Academy features a simulator facility. The facility holds simulators for the A350, B737, B757, B767, B777, B787, and Q400.

Conclusion

With Ethiopian Airlines’ strong history, rich servicel, and modern facilities, the carrier has been able to live up to its goal of becoming “The New Spirit of Africa”. This goal has not stopped, with Ethiopian’s Vision 2025 plan, which will be discussed in an upcoming article, still in effect. As much though as we’ve taken a look at Ethiopians history, mission and facilities, there is still one topic that remains: Onboard Service. In parts 2 and 3, we will continue to take a look at Ethiopian’s long haul and short haul service.

The Author would like to thank the Ethiopian Press and MRO team in being able to prepare this analysis.

All images by Luca Zocche/Aeronautics Online unless otherwise noted

Featured image by Photo360

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