Air Tanzania has scored a first in Africa by becoming the only airline in the continent to acquire the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft.

The carrier, in its pursuit of expanding its international footprint, officially took possession of this state-of-the-art aircraft at Boeing’s manufacturing facility in Seattle on Monday.

The Boeing 737 Max 9, a medium-range aircraft, is poised to enhance Air Tanzania’s continental operations, complementing its existing fleet.

At present, the government-owned airline boasts a fleet comprising 13 aircraft, including one Dash 8-Q300, five Dash8-Q400, four Airbus 220-300, two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, and one Boeing 767 Freighter.

This landmark acquisition coincides with Kenya Airways’ declaration of the Boeing 737 Max as a top priority in its fleet replacement strategy, aiming to phase out the Embraer 190 currently in service.

The Boeing 737 Max 9, with a seating capacity of 181 passengers, a range of 3,250 nautical miles, and a maximum speed of 853 kilometers per hour, presents an attractive alternative for Air Tanzania and regional carriers.

Kenya Airways in a previous interview with Business Day Africa, indicated its consideration of the narrow-body Boeing 737 Max as a viable replacement for the Embraer aircraft in its fleet Kenya’s national carrier announced its intention to transition to an all-Boeing fleet, phasing out its Brazilian-made Embraer jets.

Top government officials pose for a photo with the aircraft in Dar. Image: courtesy.
Top government officials pose for a photo with the aircraft in Dar. Image: courtesy.

It is noteworthy that Tanzania’s latest move underscores the growing interest among regional carriers in integrating narrow-body aircraft into their fleets, primarily due to their recognised fuel efficiency.

While Ethiopia Airlines, the largest carrier in the region, operates the Boeing 737 Max 8, it is yet to incorporate the new variant of the Max series.

This development follows a period of uncertainty surrounding the Boeing 737 Max, precipitated by two tragic accidents involving the aircraft model.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 and an Indonesian Lion Air flight, both Boeing 737 Max aircraft, crashed shortly after takeoff in separate incidents, resulting in a tragic loss of lives.

Investigations revealed that these accidents were attributed to design flaws, particularly related to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a flight control software intended to aid pilots transitioning to the new model without requiring extensive additional training.