The Faces of Ethiopian Airlines – Colonel Semret Medhane

Spotlighting three key figures who have helped shape Ethiopian into the “New Spirit of Africa.”

Colonel Semret Medhane (Photo: Zachariah Abubeker)
Colonel Semret Medhane (Photo: Zachariah Abubeker)

Colonel Semret Medhane

First Ethiopian CEO of Ethiopian Airlines (1971-1975)

Roughly 15 years after Ethiopian Airlines started operations, the government reached a decision to appoint a deputy general manager to assist the board of directors in safely “Ethiopianizing” ET. As a pilot and aeronautical engineer, Colonel Semret Medhane floated to the top as the most highly qualified candidate, “but I didn’t jump at the job offer,” he recalls, because he was heading the technical services of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force, and critical options were being evaluated and acted upon.

“But to be appointed by the emperor’s minister of pen was another matter,” he notes, adding how “From this modest start, this challenge of a lifetime became all-encompassing.”

Lasting legacy at ET:“Before I joined the management at ET, there wasn’t a secure source for recruiting technical staff into the airline. In late 1964, however, the airline accepted the need to train its own professionals through an aviation academy — now Africa’s largest and most prestigious school for aviation training — thus guaranteeing a continuous supply of experts. Moreover, the academy also ensures the fruition of staff birthed with ET’s unique culture and work philosophy.”

ET accomplishment of which I am most proud:“During my direct involvement from 1964 to 1975,  ET gained the confidence to believe that it can compete successfully with the best in the worldwide airline industry. We expanded our vision for ET from a regional airline to becoming a bridge that connects the world’s three massively populated countries — Japan, China and India — with Africa and beyond. We also used the Organisation of African Unity’s presence in Addis Ababa to facilitate the expansion of ET’s route network in Africa. The vision of an African route to South America took four decades to become a reality, but now one can fly ET from Tokyo to São Paulo over Africa as smoothly as one can aboard any carrier. Even still, we never dreamed that ET would grow to become the global carrier that it is today.”

Source: Selamta Magazine