TO millions of East Africans who wished their region and the then three-nation economic grouping, the East African Community (EAC), well, February 17, 1977 was a very cloudy day.
It was the day when one of the major hallmarks of budding East African cooperation, East African Airways (EAA) folded its wings – for good. After about two decades or more of hitting the regional skies dating back to the colonial era, the ‘’Wings of East Africa’’ was unceremoniously clipped, caught in the midst of machinations by a powerful and greedy clique from a member state out to bring down the ‘Flying East Africa’ to the ground for their own selfish ends.
They succeeded as all well-wishing East Africans watched in dismay. In a single ‘crazy’ day, the giant regional airline called it a day as the engineers of its downfall celebrated! Its owners - Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania - plunged in a scramble for its assets, each hanging on to what was in its possession.
A handful of planes then sat on the Nairobi’s Embakasi Airport tarmac when the fall-out came. According to one newspaper account, the collapse of EAA was the final nail in the coffin of the EAC, one the paragon of state sisterhood in the world.
The Kenyan ‘Daily Nation’ of the day even carried a front-page screamer East African Airways is dead with the story intro carrying the words…’’East African Airways is dead – beyond recall!’’ The headline and the intro really gloated that day! We have not written the above to re-open old wounds.
We just wish to offer a background of the region’s once thriving airline industry that collapsed in the mid-1970s as all partner states went their separate ways. Tanzania formed its own airline – Air Tanzania, in 1977.
After years of ups and downs, with the national airline finding itself down to a single plane, the government, under President John Magufuli, has rekindled hope by showing in action his desire to get the national flag carrier back to the skies.
The arrival and expected arrival of a number of planes, of the Bombardier and Boeing make to boost the national airline, is exactly what Tanzanians have long hoped for. It is everyone’s hope that the government will this time around do its best to turn the airline’s fortunes around and put Air Tanzania in the list of renowned world airlines.