Government buys three Russian planes

THE government has paid a deposit for three Ilyushin planes from Russia’s Voronezh Aircraft Construction Company (Vaco).

The planes, which are Ilyushin-96 models, are for cargo and passenger use.

The deal is worth US$228 million and government recently paid a 30% deposit of US$68,4 million to show commitment.

Information to hand shows that the Minister of Transport and Communication, Christopher Mushohwe, visited Russia earlier this month to place the deposit for three Ilyushin and Tupolev planes — one IL-96-400 P for passengers and two IL-96-400 M for cargo use.

The balance will be paid in the form of a loan financed by Ilyushin Finance Co, one of two state-run Russian companies involved in domestic aircraft construction and sales.

Ilyushin Finance Co is involved in financing the purchase of IL-96-300, IL-96-400 and An-148 aircraft.

Delivery of the planes will be done mid-2010. Sources said the government had backed down on its initial plan to buy five planes because of financial problems. Ilyushin Finance Co also indicated that they could only fund the purchase of three planes while they assess Zimbabwe’s ability to repay the initial loan.

Aviation experts have however criticised the deal saying Ilyushin planes were expensive to maintain. A technical report done by Air Zimbabwe engineers also criticised the decision to buy the planes from Russia. The report said the planes had serious “technical shortcomings” that have been reported by
other users in the past. They are also heavy on fuel and will involve Air Zimbabwe engineers in extensive retraining.–Paul Nyakazeya