Ethiopia has appointed the head of the country’s air force, Lieutenant General Yilma Merdassa, as chairman of national carrier Ethiopian Airlines, the company announced on Monday.

While commander of Ethiopia’s air force, Yilma served on the company’s board of directors “for the last two and half years,” before assuming his new role on June 8, the carrier said. 

He replaced Girma Wake, a 79-year-old veteran of the African airline industry, who joined the company in 1965 and served as its CEO from 2004-2011, a period of strong growth for the carrier, before taking on its chairmanship in March 2022.

Girma’s “contribution to the growth and success of the airline group has been enormous and will take a special place in the history of the group,” the company said in a press release.

Ethiopian Airlines, a 100 percent state-owned company that prides itself on being the only profitable airline on the African continent, posted a profit of $937 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Yilma has commanded Ethiopia’s air force since June 2018 and was appointed to that post by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed two months after he came to power. 

Founded in 1945, Ethiopian Airlines boasts a fleet of 144 aircraft and is a member of the Star Alliance.

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