The head of the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has denied allegations by Fastjet (FN, Dar es Salaam) that it had barred the carrier from importing a wet-leased South African B737-500 because of its debt situation.

The TCAA and other suppliers are reportedly owed TZS1.4 billion Tanzanian shillings (USD606,000) by Fastjet. The regulator has reportedly used this as a basis to ground in Dar es Salaam, one of two ex-Fastjet E190s that was to have been returned to GECAS, until the debt has been paid.

The dormant carrier's chairman, Lawrence Masha, told The Citizen newspaper in an interview on Wednesday, December 26, that the TCAA had refused to grant the aircraft, which was due to have arrived in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, December 22, the requisite permit until it had settled its dues.

He added that these debts had been incurred before he assumed control of the airline from previous majority shareholder, fastjet plc. Therefore, he argued, the TCAA should assist the carrier in resuming flights so as to expedite the clearance process.

However, according to The Daily News, TCAA director general Hamza Johari said in a press conference that Masha's version of events was not accurate adding that the application for clearance was only received two days later than claimed.

“The claims are unfounded. We did not reject the request submitted by Fastjet Company on December 22 regarding issuing a permit for the aircraft’s entry into the country. We received the letter on the matter on December 24, just a day before Christmas,” he said.

Johari added that the TCAA would scrutinize Fastjet's application and if all the requirements are met, only then will the aircraft be issued with the required permit.

“We want locals to invest in the aviation sector so that we can have competition. We call on Fastjet to follow the regulations if they are serious and want to do business in the country.”