1967 - current
Air Zimbabwe is the national airline of Zimbabwe. Its history dates back to September 1967, when the government of Rhodesia, the former British colony South Rhodesia which unilaterally had declared independence, founded Air Rhodesia Corporation as the successor to Air Rhodesia. The airline inherited the fleet of its predecessor, consisting of Douglas DC-3 and Vickers Viscounts. In 1978 the company was renamed to Air Zimbabwe Rhodesia and eventually adopted its current name Air Zimbabwe in 1980 after formation of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Apart from domestic routes, the main connection in the early years was from Salisbury, the name of the capital in colonial times (since 1980 Harare), to Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa. Later, the regional network was extended with other destinations in Southern and Eastern Africa. These services were flown with the Viscounts, of which 13 units have been is service over the years. After these were phased out, Boeing 737s were bought or leased for the regional routes, as well as a single BAe-146 that mainly operated domestically. In 2005 three Xian MA-60 were obtained, one of which was lost in a non-fatal accident, the other two were withdrawn from use in 2012. More recent years saw two Airbus A320 in use and currently one Embraer ERJ-145 is in service.
Intercontinental routes were launched in 1980, first to London, followed one year later by Frankfurt. For this connection Air Zimbabwe initially leased one Boeing 707 from South African Airways until three B707 were bought from Lufthansa in 1982; later two additional B707 were acquired from the same source and also Athens was added to the route network. In cooperation with Qantas Air Zimbabwe offered a connection from Harare with Perth and Sydney, using a Qantas B747SP. For the long distance, the B707s were replaced with two Boeing B767 that are still in the fleet nowadays, albeit parked. These allowed developing destinations like Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which were all discontinued since. In 2017 the European Union listed Air Zimbabwe as banned from the EU for safety reasons. The latest fleet additions were two B777 in 2020 but these were immediately put into storage.
The airline was seriously hit by financial crises in 2005 and in 2012, when it was even grounded due to heavy debts. After help from the government and massive staff reduction a restart was achieved in 2013, but with a limited flight scheme. Unfortunately the airline continued to accumulate debts, which necessitated termination of several destinations due to the risk of impoundment for unpaid debts. After suspension of all flights caused by the Covid pandemic, some domestic and regional flights were resumed in late 2020. Currently the entire fleet is parked inactive at Harare, with the exception of the single ERJ-145 that is in operation.
Air Zimbabwe and Fokkers
In June 1984 Fokker received an order for two F28-4000 and both were built and test-flown in 1984 in full Air Zimbabwe colors. But the order was cancelled before any F28 was delivered to Zimbabwe. In the press are multiple mentions of the Air Zimbabwe Fokker plane scandal in 1987, where 100 million $ was involved and as usual in the country, the corruption scandal was never fully elucidated. Many years later still a F28 Fellowship with Air Zimbabwe titles could be seen that was on short-term lease.
In April 1995 Air Zimbabwe ordered two pre-owned Fokker 50s and both were delivered one month later. Although they officially served with Air Zimbabwe Express, this was not externally visible. The Fokkers did not have a long life in Zimbabwe, since in May 1996 the Zimbabwean government instructed Air Zimbabwe to terminate the lease of both Fokker 50s, due to their inability to reliably operate from high and hot airports, affecting the country’s tourism industry.
Air Zimbabwe Fokker fleet
|Registration||c/n||Date in||Date out||Remarks|
|(Z-WPA)||11212||-||-||Testflights as PH-EXZ, not taken up|
|(Z-WPB)||11220||-||-||Testflights as PH-EZS, not taken up, stored as PH-ZCH|
|ZS-DRF||11239||08-2010||24-09-2010||Leased from Branson Air|
|Z-WPG||20104||31-03-1995||11-1996||Lease prematurely terminated. Named Niyaminyami|
|Z-WPH||20105||03-05-1995||11-1996||Lease prematurely terminated|
Air Zimbabwe pictures
Undelivered to Air Zimbabwe was PH-EXZ (11212) stored at Woensdrecht until Lloyd Aviation bought the Fellowship. (unknown photographer; Woensdrecht, April 1995)
The second F28 that Air Zimbabwe did not take up was test-flown as PH-EXS and subsequently was put into storage as PH-ZCH (11220) until Ecuadorian TAME took it into service end 1985. (Udo Haafke; Amsterdam, 17 June 1985)
The only F28 that actually did fly for Air Zimbabwe was ZS-DRF (11239), leased for only two months in 2010. (A.J. Best; Lanseria, September 2010)
The first F50 delivered to Air Zimbabwe was Z-WPG (20104). (unknown photographer, slide scan from my collection; unknown location, October 1995)
Z-WPH (20105) was the other F50 in Air Zimbabwe service. (Rolf Wallner; Victoria Falls, 18 September 1995)
- Aerotransport.org, accessed 17-09-2023.
- R. Roche and A.B. Eastwood. Jet Airliner Production List, volume 2. The Aviation Hobby Shop, July 2006.
- B. Eastwood and J. Roche. Turbo Prop Airliner Production List. The Aviation Hobby Shop, July 2007.
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Zimbabwe accessed 17-09-2023.
- Jan Homma, personal communication regarding some corrections, September 2023.