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Air Burundi Orders Chinese-Built MA60 Turboprops

By Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Uganda

According to a source in Bujumbura, the national airline, Air Burundi, has ordered two Chinese-built turboprop aircraft of MA60 types, in an apparent effort to boost capacity and allow the flag carrier to fly to key neighboring countries, like Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and even Congo. The airlines wants to fly to these destinations under their own schedules, rather than, as is presently the case, depend almost entirely on airlines from those countries to fly into Bujumbura.

While it could not be confirmed outright, it is thought that China has made favorable credit terms available to Air Burundi, with the government in Bujumbura reportedly ready to guarantee any loans. This appears to be an effort to bring Chinese-built aircraft into the Great Lakes region, where hitherto, the turboprop market is dominated by ATR, Bombardier, and for the smaller types, Czech-built LETs and the traditional Cessna and the Beechcraft 1900.

The purchase will be a boost not only to the airline’s operational capabilities but could also be a precursor to at least in part privatize the airline when the financial performance makes it possible.

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