Air Transport World

Air Gabon plans modest expansion. (Gabon, West Africa)

Air Gabon plans modest expansion Libreville--"It is our own, it flies long distances and it is intelligent." These words used by an Air Gabon executive to explain the airline's parrot emblem could have also described the national carrier of the Gabonese Republic, one of the richest countries in Africa. "It is our own" are the significant words. For many years until 1977 Gabon relied on Air Afrique and UTA for its long-distance air communications within the African continent and to Europe. In the early 1960s the Gabonese government, like that of most ex-French colonies in Africa, decided to join Air Afrique rather than having a national carrier operate its long-haul services.

Increasing dissatisfaction with Air Afrique's services between Gabon and Europe as well as with the lack of Gabonese representation on the multinational carrier's management resulted in Gabon pulling out of Air Afrique in 1977. At that time traffic to and from Gabon was providing Air Afrique with 25% of its revenue, mostly from the transport of European (mainly French) experts involved in the nation's burgeoning oil, uranium and manganese mining activities.

Pulling out of Air Afrique did not leave Gabon without an air transport industry but the existing operator, Societe National Air Gabon, was geared up mainly for domestic services and flights to neighboring countries. For long-distance operations it lacked equipment but its personnel was experienced, having come from the various companies which pioneered air transport in Gabon in the 1950s and 1960s as well as from Air Afrique.

French interest

Thus it was the Societe National Air Gabon which formed the nucleus of the present Air Gabon, officially Compagnie National Air Gabon, and which came into being at the end of 1977 with a capital of two billion African francs and with ownership split between the Gabonese government and government agencies (70%) and French interests (30%). …

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