The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has set a June 30 launch date for its new national carrier, Congo Airways (8Z, Kinshasa N'Djili), which will replace the current quasi-defunct LAC - Lignes Aériennes Congolaises (4V, Kinshasa N'Djili).

Airline managing director Claude Kirongozi told Reuters newswire in an interview that the first of two A320-200s (TS-INC, msn 1744 on wet-lease from Nouvelair (BJ, Monastir)) is currently being prepared for its inaugural flight while negotiations over the purchase of the second are currently being concluded.

Air France Consulting is providing consultancy for the project.

From their Kinshasa N'Djili hub, the two Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) machines will initially serve eight local cities including Lubumbashi in Congo's southern region and Goma in the east. Thereafter, the arrival of additional aircraft, said to include Dash 8-400s from Bombardier (BBA, Montréal Trudeau) as well, will see a total of 54 domestic and regional destinations being served.

Congo Airways is the DRC's latest attempt at establishing a national carrier as in 1997, with the ouster of Mobutu Sese Seko and the collapse of Air Zaire (QC, Kinshasa N'Dolo), Sabena (Brussels National) entered into a partnership with the then Zaïrean government to create a new airline to be called "New Air Zaïre".

Sabena, which had partnered Swissair (SR, Zurich) and South African investors, was initially offered a controlling 51% shareholding. However, a change in circumstances resulted in the Zaïrean government demanding overall control of the airline with the Belgians securing 49.5% for a reported BFR100 million.

The new airline would have operated domestic services while Sabena would utilise its traffic rights to operate international flights. In the end however, nothing came to bear and Air Zaïre was thus reorganised into LAC - Lignes Aériennes Congolaises, which began flights in 1997.