Ethiopia-based Aquarius Aviation has invested in a Rockwell Commander, having operated the Aero Commander for six years. “The Commander is a very capable aircraft for the types of operation that we are engaging in,” says deputy md and chief pilot Andre Huisamen. “It has good capabilities for gravel runways, great range, a comfortable interior, pressurised cabin and can be operated by one pilot. It is also a bit cheaper to operate than some of its rivals.”
Huisamen is now able to fly 'above the weather' in a pressurised environ-ment, and can transport his clients quickly over a longer distance, so that they can spend as long as possible at their intended destination, and return to Addis Ababa later. “We are mostly running charter flight oper-ations, and are in the initial stages of beginning the first medical ambulance flight operations in Ethiopia,” he continues. “Even though most of our flights are on an ad hoc basis, we also have contracts with various oil and gas production companies as well as several embassies.”
He has taken advantage of the fact that there are no other operators offering twin engine, pressurised aircraft in Ethiopia. “We opened this market and got a great response. Its speed means that clients spend less time travelling, and more time attending to their business.”
Since January 2015 Aquarius has been operating a Beechcraft 1900, on lease from South Africa. The aircraft has enabled greater capacity and has generated a lot of charter interest. Huisamen nonetheless admits that operating in east Africa is not without its pitfalls: “General aviation is a very small part of the aviation sector. Airports are far apart, and those that are in operation do not always have good access to fuel or proper instrument flight capabilities. But Africa also has many opportunities for expanding, and therefore we feel blessed to be part of it, and operate in our region.
“Ethiopia is developing at a rapid rate, and we are looking at the future with optimism. The mining sector is expanding hastily, as more and more companies see the opportunities here. We are fortunate to have developed a great relationship with various oil and gas production companies.” Huisamen is now looking into the possibility of initiating the first certified air ambulance service in Ethiopia, working with a reputable clinic in the capital to offer an aircraft fitted to respond to any emergency situation. “It would be a great initiative, hopefully saving several lives in a country where driving is still dangerous, towns and cities are many hours apart, and proper hospitals and medical facilities aren't always present in those cities.
“As Ethiopia is becoming more and more accessible to tourists, and opportunities to invest in the development of the country are opening up, this service will soon be vital,” he concludes.
Aquarius received its AOC in 2009 as an affiliate of Kenyan company Aberdair Aviation. In 2013 it decided to break away and continue on its own. It now operates a fleet of three fixed wing aircraft and one helicopter, with a team of certified technicians and support personnel. It offers charter flight services for both passengers and cargo throughout Ethiopia and the wider region of east Africa.