Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare International) new acting Chief Executive Officer Edmund Makona plans to convert one of the airline's two stored B767-200(ER)s into a freighter and put it back into service in the next two months, reports The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.

Makona was re-appointed last month for a period of six months while a permanent CEO is sought. He replaced Tafadzwa Zaza, who was acting CEO for the past 16 months. Makona has been vice-chairman of Air Zimbabwe since December 2022. He had a previous stint as CEO of Air Zimbabwe between April 2013 to September 2016 after having been with the airline for 31 years.

His immediate task is to facilitate Air Zimbabwe's recovery by implementing a six-year strategic turnaround plan, including procuring and deploying appropriate equipment for the current and planned route network and streamlining the fleet to reduce maintenance and operational costs.

In an interview with The Zimbabwe Independent, he disclosed plans to convert one of the two stored B767-200ERs into a freighter aligned with a strategy to identify opportunities to earn immediate revenue and drive long-term recovery.

In addition, he said, Air Zimbabwe is keen to relaunch flights on international routes such as London Gatwick (UK) and Beijing Capital (China) and consolidate the domestic and regional network to feed the international routes.

"The next phase is to look at the fleet that we have from a strategic standpoint and utilise most of our assets," he told businessdigest at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair recently. "We are going to bring [back] one of our Boeing 767s to specifically focus on cargo. This service should be available at least within the next two months, if not less."

He said the recovery plan revolved around developing route networks, finances, human capital, and equipment. "We are going to grow sustainably. We are taking a crawl, walk and run approach. However, there are also low-hanging fruit. We are looking at London and Harare-Beijing. We would definitely focus on those routes. They realise an immediate return on investment."

Makona said the airline would scout for funding as the recovery plan progresses. The 33-year-old B767s are owned by the airline but have both been stored in Harare for the past two years pending maintenance. Zimbabwe has not had a homegrown freight carrier since the collapse of Affretair (Harare International) in the early 2000s. The nationalised carrier had specialised in running horticultural exports from Zimbabwe to Europe using DC8 freighters.

Air Zimbabwe recently placed its two B777-200ERs stored at Harare International on the dry-lease market. They are Z-NBE (msn 28422) and Z-RGM (msn 28421). Neither aircraft has ever been deployed into commercial service for the state-owned Zimbabwean carrier having both been linked to the stillborn, Mugabe-era Zimbabwe Airways (Harare International).

Air Zimbabwe operates one EMB-145LR, Z-WPQ (msn 145373), regionally to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo (South Africa) and domestically to Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. Its 36-year-old B737-200, Z-WPA (msn 23677), is deployed on the same routes depending on demand, according to the ch-aviation fleets module. Another EMB-145LU, N214MA (msn 145559) is in maintenance at Saltillo.

ch-aviation has reached out to Air Zimbabwe for comment.