Multi-skilled Susan Mashibe is bringing MRO to Tanzania. Marcella Nethersole reports.
VIA Aviation is aiming to achieve its maintenance part 145 certification for its Kilimanjaro International Airport base.
The operator’s president and CEO, Susan Mashibe, is both a commercial pilot and an aircraft maintenance engineer.
“We have been supporting the ground-handling for several years but now we see the need to support our customers with maintenance as well,” said Mashibe. “The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) might be selling in Africa, but the support just isn’t there for turbojets, business aviation and general aviation. Our maintenance service will include scheduled and non- scheduled A and B checks, but with C checks it will take a couple of years to build the capability as it is extensive.”
Mashibe said there was a lack of local maintenance and engineering skills in Tanzania, so the company is forming a joint venture with US-based maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Duncan Aviation to provide VIA Aviation customers with C checks or heavy checks.
“We want to bring in the skills of Duncan Aviation to support us for now but in five or 10 years’ time we want to see locally-skilled engineers,” said Mashibe.
The company’s services range from handling coordination and handling supervision, to full aircraft ground support. It provides or arranges for fuelling, ground power supply, aircraft interior and exterior cleaning, oxygen, water and lavatory servicing.
It has 80,000sqft of hangar space that can comfortably fit in six Gulfstream 550s and 70,000sqft of private apron. It is the largest hangar for business aviation use in East Africa.
Mashibe said that while the FBO wasn’t always busy, as it tended to be seasonal with people flying in for holidays, she believed providing maintenance would up its operation throughout the year.
“It is important to train local people and for us at VIA Aviation, our team are multi-talented – not only trained as ground-handlers but many have maintenance or a pilot background.”
In fact, Mashibe herself was formally a maintenance engineer with Duncan Aviation and is also a Federal Aviation Authority-certified commercial pilot – making her the first female with both qualifications in Tanzania.
The company was at the recent African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) annual regional symposium in Addis Ababa to “participate in the African aviation business industry to enable it to move forward”.
“It’s important that we all pull together to help support the industry here in Africa,” said Mashibe.
“We need to help African governments to understand the importance of business aviation as there is still that lack of understanding.
“Governments are used to airlines coming in and business aviation seems to be a new animal for them – so we need to change this. Actually, for us, we work closely with the government and tell them when business jets are coming in to keep them up-to-date and show them how fundamental business aviation is to the economy.”