COVER STORY: Air Zimbabwe banned from European skies

Zimbabwe’s National airliner, Air Zimbabwe has remained mum on its latest ban from flying into the European Union by the European Commission over poor safety standards.

The ban has affected a host of other airlines.

Air ZImbabwe Chief Executive Officer, Tafadzwa Zaza and Spokesperson, Firstme Vitori refused to comment on the matter.
The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Felix Mhona was not picking his mobile phone.
Air Zimbabwe is among the 90 airlines from 15 states that have been banned from flying into European airspace, ostensibly for failing to meet international safety standards.

Announcing the ban, the European Commission said recently: “The Commission has updated the EU Air Safety List, which is the list of airlines that are subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union, because they do not meet international safety standards. Following the update, 21 airlines certified in Russia are now included on the EU Air Safety List.”
The Commission said this reflected serious safety concerns due to Russia’s forced re-registration of foreign-owned aircraft, knowingly allowing their operation without valid certificates of airworthiness, which it said was in breach of international aviation safety standards.
The EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency had allowed Russian airlines to operate hundreds of foreign-owned aircraft without a valid Certificate of Airworthiness.
“The Russian airlines concerned have knowingly done so in breach of relevant international safety standards. This is not only a clear breach of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), but it also poses an immediate safety threat,” she said.
She noted, however, that this was not in any way another sanction on Russia for its special operation in Ukraine, which has received condemnation from many countries across Europe.
“We are living in the context of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. However, I want to make it crystal-clear that this decision is not another sanction against Russia; it has been taken solely on the basis of technical and safety grounds. We do not mix safety with politics,” she said.
The latest update brings to 117 the total airlines banned from EU skies, 90 of them certified in 15 different states due to inadequate safety oversight by the aviation authorities from these states; 21 airlines certified in Russia, as well as 6 individual airlines from other states, based on serious safety deficiencies identified.
Some of the airlines are Avior Airlines (Venezuela), Blue Wing Airlines (Suriname), Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran), Iraqi Airways (Iraq), Med-View Airlines (Nigeria) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe).
The EU Commission said two additional airlines were subject to operational restrictions and could only fly to the EU with specific aircraft types; namely Iran Air (Iran) and Air Koryo (North Korea).
The update to the EU Air Safety List is based on the unanimous opinion of Member State aviation safety experts, who met on 5 April 2022 under the auspices of the EU Air Safety Committee, via video conference.
The committee is chaired by the EU Commission with the support from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. The update has the support of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee.
Decisions under the EU Air Safety List are based on international safety standards, and notably those of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Air Zimbabwe once broke aviation records by transporting 13 passengers on one of its domestic routes, as the crisis bedevilling the troubled national airline worsens.
In 2011, Air Zimbabwe broke aviation records when it ferried 13 passengers on one of its long haul planes with a carrying capacity of 203 passengers from Harare to Johannesburg after Zambezi Airlines re-called its aircraft which it had been leasing to Air Zimbabwe after the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe condemned some of its long haul aircraft as unfit to fly because of old age.
In May 2017, the airliner, which is owned by the Government of Zimbabwe, was also banned from flying to the 28 EU member states by the European Commission due to “unaddressed safety deficiencies”.
The airline has operated B767-200 aircraft for long-haul services.
The airline currently has only four aircraft, which are plying regional routes.
In 2012, Air Zimbabwe was placed under judicial management by the High Court following an application by its employees demanding the payment of their unpaid compensation of US$35 million dating back to 2009.
The High Court order transferred all powers to Chartered Accountant Shepherd Chimutanda, who was appointed provisional manager and barred the Air Zimbabwe board from running the affairs of the airline.

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