Zim's new Boeing aircraft sent for repairs a month after delivery

A Boeing aircraft belonging to Zimbabwe's new airline has been flown back to Malaysia for a service barely a month after it landed in Harare, a newspaper confirmed on Wednesday.

The Boeing 777, which was said to have been registered as Z-RGM in honour of former president Robert Mugabe's initials, will undergo routine maintenance in Malaysia, said the private Daily News.

Mugabe family interests?

Citing "well-placed sources", the paper said the plane, which has not yet done a single commercial flight, was flown back on Monday "for A checks and other maintenance works". 

The plane arrived amid much fanfare in April, freshly painted with the Zimbabwe colours but branded under the name Zimbabwe Airways, rather than Air Zimbabwe, which is the name of Zimbabwe's struggling national airline.

There is speculation the Mugabe family may have an interest in Zimbabwe Airways, especially as Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore helped to pilot the plane across from Malaysia and his daughter Bona was at the airport to meet it.

Expatriate pilots

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government denies the Mugabes have an interest in the new company though. Zimbabwe is reportedly set to get at least another two Boeing 777s, all bought second hand from Malaysia Airlines.

Experts say though that the Boeing 777 is in impractical plane for Zimbabwe, which struggles to fill its smaller Boeing aircraft on short local and regional routes. Zimbabwe also has no pilots qualified to fly the 777 and has to hire expensive expatriates.

Air Zimbabwe is currently struggling beneath a debt of more than $300 million, blamed on years of mismanagement.

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