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Digital Subscriptions > Airliner World > January 2018 > Serving the Pearl of Africa

Serving the Pearl of Africa

Wildlife commentaries from the pilots and sweets passed round the cabin – AeroLink Uganda plays a quirky yet important role in connecting its home market, as Sebastian Schmitz discovers.

Dubbed “The Pearl of Africa” by none other than Winston Churchill, Uganda is undoubtedly one of the most stunning nations on the continent. The East African country boasts a diverse but breathtaking landscape, including the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria, while the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to the famed mountain gorillas.

Neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania have been on the well-trodden tourist trail for decades and now relatively unspoilt Uganda is becoming increasing popular with visitors.

This, when combined with a generally poor road network, makes the country a fertile breeding ground for airlines that can offer swift regional connections for visitors and timeconscious locals.

Crossing Borders

One such carrier is AeroLink Uganda, launched in 2012 to serve this growing niche. The airline may be one of the country’s youngest, but it has a rich pedigree. Behind its creation was AirKenya Express, an independent Nairobi/Wilson-based firm with a long history of scheduled and charter services. The carrier – one of the last remaining operators of the venerable de Havilland Canada Dash 7 in the world – specialises in flying to and from small and basic airfields, catering to the needs of tourists while also providing essential air links to Kenya’s secondary markets.

Having developed a successful and thriving business, the carrier exported its model across the border to Tanzania in 1997 via a new subsidiary, Regional Air Services. The offshoot benefited greatly from close ties to its parent, drawing on its experience in the field as well as utilising its engineering and training facilities, and even leasing aircraft to cover planned maintenance downtime on its own fleet.

Buoyed by its Tanzanian venture, AirKenya turned its attention to other neighbouring markets and identified Uganda as a potential new base. At that time, the tourism industry was still relatively small, but while the nation was home to several charter operators, none offered scheduled services. Spotting an opportunity, AirKenya moved in, establishing AeroLink Uganda initially with a single Cessna 208 Caravan.

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About Airliner World

In the January issue of Airliner World, we bid farewell to KLM’s Fokkers, ending a 97-year association between the Dutch flag carrier and the manufacturer, we examine how a partial privatisation could offer Pakistan International Airlines renewed hope for its future, and we go behind the scenes with launch customer Qatar Airways as it prepares to take delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000. Elsewhere in this edition, we find out Hebridean Air Services has forged a unique and highly valued link with the remote island communities it serves, we find out how Leipzig/Halle has transformed from sleepy backwater to major European cargo hub, and we hear how AeroLink Uganda is playing a quirky but important role in connecting its home market. We also shine the spotlight on Singapore Airlines’ new A380 cabin, and we bring you a selection of photos from NBAA 2017 and from Orly, Paris’ second airport. Lastly, we bring you our comprehensive coverage of worldwide news, including a full round-up from the Dubai Airshow, plus Embraer eyes an April debut for the E-Jet E2, ATR wins a major order from FedEx, Emirates takes delivery of its 100th Airbus A380, and Boeing delivers the first 737 MAX to China. We also have all our regular sections covering the latest commercial aircraft acquisitions, up-to-date accident reports and developments from the world of aviation training and MROs.

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