Ethiopian Mikias Mezgebu was part of building the new Ethiopian Boeing 777 Jet as a mechanic.
EVERETT, WA. — Outside of Boeing’s gigantic factory, the company reached a milestone Wednesday. Boeing delivered its 900th 777 airliner.
The buyer of the 900th 777 (and four other 777-200LR’s) is Ethiopian Airlines. The east African country is the link that connects Africa to the rest of the world.
The LR in 777-200LR stands for “long range,” and the planes Ethiopian Airlines bought should do the job, for example, connecting Washington, D.C. direct to Addis Ababa, the airline’s hub.
Ethiopian Airlines already has a sizable Boeing fleet, with 737’s, 757’s, and 767’s. It has standing orders for 787 Dreamliners and more 737’s, in addition to the big continent-connecting 777’s. Their fleet is one of the world’s youngest.
Most passengers carried by Ethiopian Airlines are not going to or coming from Ethiopia. Most are going through, as the country has made itself a center for air travel.
“Basically, we serve the whole continent and we are connecting the continent to other continents,” said Girma Wake, Ethiopian Airlines CEO, in town to pick up his newest jet. Wake said while the airline is the state-owned flag carrier, it is operated as a business and has been profitable for a decade.
Ethiopian Airlines has been a positive exception for much of Africa. By reputation, Africa’s airline fleets have been characterized as old, inefficient and unsafe. That, however, is changing.
Both Boeing and Airbus make forecasts as to how many planes the world and its various regions and countries will buy. Much of the focus has been on the wild growth in Asia, specifically China.
But Africa has its own story to tell. Boeing’s forecast calls for the delivery of more than 700 new jets worth some $80 billion dollars over the next 20 years. Economic forces such as oil development and tourism are considered big drivers behind that growth.