A new partnership forged this past summer between Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines to create a so-called aviation hub in Africa appears to have borne early fruit for the flag carrier, as talks on producing and supplying insulation blankets for Boeing 737 Max narrowbodies have reached their final stages, according to the airline’s acting COO, Retta Melaku.
“We are on the final stage of the discussion to start production,” he said. “Currently we are discussing with Boeing plans to expand this capability to other newer models such as the 787.”
According to an August agreement to create an African “aviation hub” in Addis Ababa, Boeing and Ethiopian plan to partner in four areas of strategic collaboration—industrial development, advanced aviation training, educational partnership, and leadership development.
A Lasting Relationship
The relationship between Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing dates back to the inception of the flag carrier in 1945. At the time, the Ethiopian government hired TWA to establish and manage Ethiopian Airlines, which started operations in April 1946 with five World War II-surplus Douglas C-47 Skytrains.
When Ethiopian Airlines joined the jet age in the 1960s, it became the first African airline to acquire the four-engine Boeing 707 derivative called the 720. While Ethiopia underwent a socialist revolution in the 1970s, the national flag carrier placed orders for Boeing 727s. By 1984 Ethiopian became the second airline in the world to acquire the Boeing 767-200, after Israel’s El Al. Most recently, Ethiopian became one of the launch customers for the Boeing 787, becoming in 2012 the third airline to acquire the Dreamliner after ANA and Japan Airlines.
Established in 1957, Ethiopian MRO and Engineering Services boasts a rich history of maintaining and repairing Boeing aircraft. The MRO center has six modern maintenance hangars and engine, component, avionics, and mechanical shops. It also maintains De Havilland Q400s and Airbus A350s. The center provides maintenance services for airlines in most African countries and to major Gulf carriers Saudia and Oman Air.