Formed in 2002. International, charter, cargo, jet airplane services.
PO Box 6619
The Rwanda Republic was established in 1962 and covers an area of 26, 338 sq km. The capital city is Kigali and the official language is French. The population is 8.3 million.
May 2002: 2 DC-8-62F's (46068, 9XR-SC; 45956, 9XR-SD), Compass Air VI leased.
November 2004: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
March 2006: The European Union (EU) banned 92 airlines, most of them based in Africa, from landing at European airports, declaring them unsafe by international standards.
The ban applies to cargo and passenger carriers from Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Swaziland and Liberia judged to have an "inadequate system for regulatory oversight" or insufficient safety standards. It will be enforced by all 25 (EU) nations, plus Norway and Switzerland. The flight ban applies to Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB). Silverback (VRB) is to contest the decision.
The flight ban also applies to Ariana Afghan Airlines (AFG), North Korea's Air Koryo (KOY) and Thailand's Phuket Airlines. 2 airlines each from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were listed as well.
Lesser restrictions were placed on Air Bangladesh (BGD) and Buraq Air from Libya, which will be able to operate flights if they use certain planes that have met safety requirements, the European Commission (EC) said.
April 2007: As soon as the night time noise restrictions lifted, an aging McDonnell Douglas DC-8-62F freighter taxied out of a Brussels airport hangar into the dawn calm of a cold March morning to start an ignominious return home. Belgian civil aviation authority officials must have cheerfully saluted the departure of Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB) from the heartland of Europe back to its Rwandan home. A day later and the African airplane, which had been grounded since August, would have been permanently “residing” at the Zaventem airport, banned from flying under blacklist rules and creating even greater problems in its stationary wake. “The supervising authority and the airline worked together to ensure that the airplane was brought up to standard as a pre-condition for flight. Any further delay would have caused series issues about its ability to travel through European airspace,” confirmed a Belgian (CAA) official.
Belgium’s Transport Ministry published the country’s 1st blacklist of air transport companies last August, following examples set by Switzerland and the UK, as the public outcry at the non-existent airline safety disclosure by European aviation authorities grew to a deafening pitch. Describing the circumstances surrounding Silverback (VRB)’s inclusion on the Belgian blacklist after aviation safety inspectors detected a fuel leak problem, a (CAA) official said: “In economic terms, being put on a blacklist is tantamount to having an air disaster. With 1 accident every week [involving other carriers] during August, that triggered an extreme sensitivity – and with the current political emphasis, it is a case of guilty until proven innocent.” (VRB) evidently failed to restore Belgian faith in its safety and last week was banned, along with 91 other airlines, most of them based in Africa, from landing at European airports for failing to meet international safety standards. European Transport Commissioner, Jacques Barrot said the (EU), based on information from the bloc’s 25 member states, is barring 50 carriers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 14 from Sierra Leone and 7 from Swaziland, 3 states judged to have an “inadequate system for regulatory oversight” and therefore deserving of a blanket ban on all airlines operating from there (full list follows this article). Pressure to create a binding (EU) blacklist began to mount after the Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300 crash at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt in January 2004, which killed 134 French holidaymakers. They had boarded, unaware that the Egyptian airplane had failed a Swiss safety test 2 years earlier and equally oblivious that it remained banned from Swiss airspace on technical grounds. Calls for action increased when it was suspected in May 2005 that Turkish carrier Onur Air (ONR), banned from Dutch airspace, was flying Dutch tourists to and from Belgian airports simply by bussing them over the border. Passengers enquiring about which airlines were banned by the 25 member states met with a particularly galling example of bureaucratic stonewalling. While not classified as officially secret, the information shared between the 41 member states of the European Civil Aviation Conference, which oversees the Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) testing regime, was unobtainable by European citizens. Passengers and even tour operators could only find out the details if governments decided to reveal the information. The accepted wisdom was that the protocol was for the countries that imposed the actions not to discuss them.
Switzerland, with its stern cultural fixation with business confidentiality, had banned 23 airplanes from flying through its airspace, although the names, and even the number of companies, remained classified. While concern had been expressed that too much disclosure would discourage airlines from co-operating in future safety programs, the high number of deaths in recent years arguably caused through an absence of transparency created a momentum that defeated any academic debate over effective collaboration between regulator and regulated. The independent publication of blacklists by several European states last year, accelerated the speed of change. It led to (EC) regulators drawing up in May an emergency procedure for dealing with safety concerns about particular airlines (the foundation for the 1st (EU) airline blacklist). Now that it is published, (EU) states can continue to act at national level in exceptional cases, particularly in emergencies or in response to a safety issue that directly affects it. More importantly, the (EC) can impose a ban independently on the advice of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), whose role will from next January be extended to include administering the (SAFA) database under which airplane inspections can result in bans. (EASA) performance here will be heavily scrutinized as the (EC) pledges that the (EU) blacklist will be updated “as often as is necessary” and at least at 3-monthly intervals, while guaranteeing that every decision to ban an airline will be subject to careful assessment even if done “very quickly in urgent cases”. This will to promote the transparency of the safety-testing regime also became apparent at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) annual conference, held days before the publication of the (EU) airline blacklist. There it was announced that aviation safety oversight audit results for individual states would be made available to the public within 2 years. What began as a “Mexican stand-off”, with 6 African states plus Panama and Cuba insisting that assessment by (ICAO)’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) should be kept secret from the public for fear of bad public relations (PR), turned into a “Mexican wave” of approval. By the conference’s end on March 22, 70 states out of the 124 represented present, signaled they would sign up for disclosure.
The support was, however, followed by an appeal for resources to assist affected states to correct any shortcomings in safety oversight discovered during the audit. The World Bank and the (EC) countered that support would only be available to states who signed up to the disclosure agreement.
Early detractors of the 1st (EU) airline blacklist questioned whether European legislators were in the business of managing a “cut and paste” aggregation of existing banned operators. But the finer detail contained within the (EU) blacklist suggested there was a level of heated debate when the Aviation Safety Committee examined each airline on a case-by-case basis. Differences of opinion did emerge over Hewa Bora (EXD), a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) airline. While the UK (CAA) had banned any Congolese carrier from flying to the UK due to fears that its regulatory oversight was inadequate, (EXD) continued to enter (EC) airspace on its sole European route to Brussels and then on to Paris. A Belgian (CAA) official insisted that, while it had found (EXD) “marginally acceptable” in safety terms, the UK (CAA), on the basis of Belgium’s own data, moved to ban the operator from Europe (potentially cutting the (DRC)’s last aviation link to the former colonial power). “The assumption that the (EU) blacklist was merely a ‘cut and paste’ job is not true,” said the official. “The (EXD) bilateral operation was deemed by Belgium to be too valuable in terms of it representing an economic asset that they wanted to preserve. There was pressure to avoid a country that had no 1st-hand experience of a particular carrier being able to dictate affairs.” (EXD) is now permitted to use 1 specific Lockheed L-1011 for its European operations.
A lack of transparency has not merely been indicative of a misguided deference to protocol by Europe’s civil aviation authorities (each ploughing until now an essentially autonomous furrow) but is also indicative of a real fear by disadvantaged countries of publication destroying either their airlines or their tourist industry. Commissioner Barrot anticipated the risk of retaliation with the publication of the 1st blacklist, pledging that the (EU) would also aid African countries trying to upgrade airline safety standards, echoing pledges made at the (ICAO) conference. “Our sole aim is to improve aviation safety, which is in everyone’s interests, and in no way to affect a country’s economic or social development. We also propose that countries affected set up technical assistance measures to help them achieve a satisfactory level of aviation safety,” said Barrot.
But the evidence of tit-for-tat reprisals exists. Heavily exposed to the African air travel market, SN Brussels (DAT) has still to resume its Brussels - Kigali service after the Rwandan authorities grounded 1 of the Belgian carrier’s A330-300s in Kigali for 3 days in February and requested documents detailing the airplane’s complete maintenance history. Rwanda released the Belgian airplane, following direct intervention by Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, who accused the African nation of impounding the airplane in reaction to Belgium’s decision to bar Rwandan carrier (VRB). A source close to the airline said: “You would struggle to find an airline more exposed than SN Brussels (DAT). Anything that is said is subject to over-reaction and the fact that (DAT) is being mistakenly identified as as a state-owned airline.” (DAT) has signaled its commitment to further investment in the African market by planning to take a majority shareholding in a new national carrier for Cameroon that is being privatized with the help of the World Bank. Cameroon has had its own recent aviation safety issues. France imposed a 2-month ban in September after security concerns were raised on the Cameroon Airlines (CAM)’s Douala to Paris Charles de Gaulle operations.
Virgin Nigeria (VNA) (a joint venture between Virgin Atlantic (VAA)and Nigerian investors) launched services 3 months ago with a mix of domestic, regional and long-haul routes from its Lagos base. In February, (VNA) and the Nigerian College of Air Training agreed to co-operate on training pilots (FC) and mechanics (MT), with Virgin (VAA) committing to employ successful graduates. (VNA) Director of Flight Operations, Jason Holt believed the improvement of the country’s aviation infrastructure was not simply a question of cash, more a question of developing the “absorptive capacity” of the state in terms of the regulatory and technological environment. “There is an acceptance that change was on its way, but it was a slow process,” he admitted.
Another aspirant in the establishment of a new Cameroon national carrier, David Granville Chief Executive of Kenyan Airways (KEN), summed up the attitude of many of the high-quality African airlines: “We’re African airlines, and as such, our name can be more easily tarnished because of someone one who has significantly lower standards than ours.”
December 2009: The European Commission (EC) released its updated list of airlines banned from European Union (EU) airspace and cited progress with carriers from Ukraine and Angola. From the former, Motor Sich was removed from the list entirely and Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines now was allowed to operate into the (EU) with 1 airplane, while (TAAG) Angola Airlines (ANG) was permitted to increase the number of planes it flies to Portugal owing to "significant progress" made by the carrier and civil aviation authority "to resolve progressively any safety deficiencies," the (EC) said. Conversely, all airlines from Djibouti, Republic of Congo, plus Sao Tome and Principe were newly banned, along with Air Koryo (KOY), Air West, Ariana Afghan Airlines (AFG), Siem Reap Airways (SRA) and Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB).
March 2010: The European Commission (EC)'s 13th update of its list of airlines banned from operating within the European Union (EU)'s borders included all carriers from the Philippines and Sudan, as well as Iran Air (IRN). Philippine Airlines (PAL) operated to 5 North American destinations but neither it nor its affiliates flew to Europe, while Iran Air (IRN) did serve the continent.
The (EC) said it "acknowledged the efforts launched by the competent authorities to reform the civil aviation system in the Philippines" and that (PAL) and Cebu Air (CEB) had taken measures. However, it said it would "follow the principle of precaution" and impose a full operating ban. Sudan, the (EC) said, was guilty of "persistent noncompliance with international standards in the area of oversight." Ramp checks of Iran Air (IRN) airplanes serving the (EU), along with "serious incidents and accidents suffered by the carrier and insufficient oversight from the authority over the past year," led the (EC) to ban certain airplanes from operating. It said it planned a visit to Iran "over the next months" to verify safety oversight. It did not indicate which airplanes were banned.
The (EC) lifted some restrictions on (TAAG) Angola Airlines (ANG) and Air Koryo (KOY). Air Koryo (KOY), banned since March 2006, would be allowed to operate 2 specially equipped airplanes into the (EU), while (TAAG) (ANG) would be allowed to fly to any (EU) destination "under certain strict conditions with specific airplanes." Other Angolan airlines remained banned. The commission said it is "closely monitoring" airlines from Albania and Egypt. The blacklist still included Ariana Afghan Airlines (AFG), Siem Reap Airways International (SRA), Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB) and all airlines from 17 countries, including Indonesia.
August 2011: Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB) is a cargo jet airplane airline operating throughout the African continent.
(ICAO) Code: VRB (Callsign - SILVERBACK).
Owns: RwandAir (RWA) (23%).
Main Base: Kigali Airport (KGL).
NOTE: Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB)) is listed on the latest (EU) blacklist released 03.04.2012 of airlines whose operations are subject to a ban within the (EU)*. *Airlines listed in Annex A could be permitted to exercise traffic rights by using wet-leased airplanes of an air carrier which is not subject to an operating ban, provided that the relevant safety standards are complied with.