Following an announcement that the highly publicized passenger plane, Fly Salone has cancelled its flights to Sierra Leone, Platinum Media immediately mounted an investigation over what now appears as an embarrassment to the government and people of Sierra Leone.
In the course of our investigation, we have had two accounts as to why the FlySalone investment went bankrupt and stopped flying the flag of Sierra Leone.
First, we reproduce verbatim the response from the Hon Minister of Transport and Aviation, Logus Koroma after we contacted him this morning. The next account will provide details of our own independent investigations.
1) Minister Logus’ Account:
“Fly Salone was a private investment 100%, given clearance to fly by the British Civil Aviation Authority after due diligence, and then by the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation after Sierra Leoneans called for a direct flight to London from Freetown; like the private sector Virgin Airlines flying the British flag , they as private investors are flying the Sierra Leone flag .
They simply went bust in a highly competitive and professional industry like a lot of other start up airlines have gone in the UK , the rest of Europe and the USA losing billions of their own money, not government money . It appears that some Sierra Leoneans are hostile to private investments like these; from the beginning a cross section of Sierra Leoneans in the UK gave bad publicity to the venture and said they would not use it and that they preferred Air France, Brussels Airlines and Royal Air Maroc .
At least FlySalone tried and has now failed due to lack of patronage by Sierra Leoneans .
Due to this negative experience, Sierra Leonean investors will now be afraid to invest; it’s sad.
On your last question , there are no immediate plans to salvage Fly Salone and the government will not be interested in this kind of specialised business”
2) What Platinum Media Found Out:
Fly Salone was a one-man venture initiated by one Sam Sabrah, who has long been interested in the aviation business in Sierra Leone. In his proposal to the Ministry of Transport and aviation, he did not include any feasibility study reports or any financial statements. It was thus difficult to ascertain his liquidity status. This leads one to wonder what the minister meant by “after due diligence”, if his ministry saw it fit to accept a proposal so scant in details. Sabra approached the Ministry for a license and since the only way he could get clearance from the UK government to fly from Sierra Leone to London was his aircraft to qualify as a national carrier, there was the deliberate use of the country’s name and flag.
Having secured the license from GoSL, Sabrah scouted for investors to partner with him. They took out an expensive lease on an old aircraft from Icelandair. Sabra and co had no proper air transport manager to advise them on their operations. They also only had only one crew. Flights had to be cancelled on numerous occasions because a crew member was ill or unavailable.
From the above, it was clear that FlySalone crashed because of bad management. Had the Ministry of Transport and Aviation done their assignment well, it would have realized the whole venture was not viable. We have also learnt that several organs/agencies of government opposed this deal, but the Minister Logus was adamant to proceed.
Information available to us revealed that this was also the manner in which the Minister tried to hoodwink the Government into signing a terrible deal with Delta Airlines wherein GoSL was to subsidize Delta Airlines during their operations here in Sierra Leone.