The Changing Face of Africa’s Skyline

January 13, 2024
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Bombardiers in Africa: Arik Air

By Chippla Vandu

When talking about commercial aviation, there are two companies in the world that come to mind—Boeing and Airbus. Quite often, discussions about the global airliner market assumes that all other manufactures are of little or no significance when placed side by side with these two giants.

However, Brazil, Canada and Russia are three nations that have pretty good homegrown aviation industries.

Brazil’s Embraer may better be known for the executive jets it produces but these days, it seems to be making headway in the 100 plus-seater airliner market—a market that is currently dominated by the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320.

Embraer’s range of commercial jets is able to fit into the airliner market niche in which the 737 and A320 are seen as too large. This would be the niche, which requires seating between 70 and 100 passengers per flight and nothing more.

Russia has a pretty impressive aviation industry. While it may better be known for the military airplanes it produces, a couple of Russian companies are involved in the production of passenger airplanes.

These include Tupolev and Ilyushin. Tupolev became famous in the non-Soviet world for building the fastest commercial airplane ever in 1968—the Tu-144. These days its medium range airliners could be mistaken for Aibruses, at least externally.

Ilyushin appears not to have released a new passenger airplane for over a decade and a half.

However, its airliners are widely used by Aeroflot, the Russian national carrier. According to this Wikipedia article, the government of Russia is working towards merging Tupolev, Ilyushin and four other Russian companies into a single conglomerate to be known as United Aircraft Corporation.

Canada’s Bombardier, like Embraer of Brazil, has also moved beyond the production of executive jets into the regional jet market. Its CRJ series of airliners also appear ideal for the 70 to 100-seat market.

Nigeria’s Arik Air would become not only the first airline in Nigeria but also on the African continent to order Bombardier airliners for its operations.

According to this Bombardier press release, reported by Yahoo!, Arik Air has placed a $65 million order for two brand new Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets. The press release however contains one factual error.

It describes Arik Air as “the first airline to introduce new commercial aircraft into Nigeria since 1982.” The last new commercial aircraft operated in Nigeria was a DC-10 obtained in 1989 by Nigeria Airways.

This was the 446th and last DC-10 produced by McDonnell Douglas before it shut down production of DC-10s, focusing instead on the newly designed MD-11.

By ordering new airliners for its operations, it appears that Arik Air means business. Its website states that it would also be making use of a three-year old Bombardier CRJ200 and two ex-United Airlines Boeing 737s built in the 1990s.

Chippla Vandu is a Nigerian academic and writer. He blogs as Chippla

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