Lone Star Air, Liberian national airline, was officially launched on October 30, 2020. However, many questions can be raised as of its actual state.
The launch ceremony was conducted in recently modernized Monrovia-Roberts International Airport (ROB). A number of government officials gathered at the event praised a decision, attributed to West African country’s president George Weah, to restart the national carrier after 30 years.
Air Liberia, which operated several utility aircraft, ceased to exist in the midst of bloody civil war in 1990. Following a ceasefire in 1995, Liberia Airways was established only to perish in the clashes preceding another civil war three years later.
LoneStar (Vol. 1)
However, in the midst of the second civil war, an airline called LoneStar Airways emerged. It leased one Boeing 727-200 (serial number 21040) from Serbian firm Aviogenex and adorned it with an impressive Liberian flag-inspired livery. Plans to lease another 727 were in place, and the company conducted at least three flights with Sudanese-registered McDonnell Douglas MD 83 too.
A strong bond between the Serbian and the Liberian companies was underscored by visits of Aviogenex representatives to Monrovia, and large sums of Liberian government money (from nation’s maritime and forestry programs) funneled into LoneStar as well as several other Sudanese, Egyptian and British airlines it cooperated with. This resulted in hundreds of supposedly passenger flights between war-torn Liberian capital and several African and Balkan destinations in late 2002 and early 2003.
As the UN Security Council report (S/2003/498) shows, those flights existed solely to ferry large amounts of weapons, including combat helicopter parts, between Belgrade and Monrovia. LoneStar Airways was a scheme to circumvent UN arms embargo and stopped flights some time before the president Charles Taylor – whose economic adviser Emmanuel Shaw was the managing director of LoneStar – resigned and fled the country.
LoneStar (Vol. 2)
With the ceasefire and the change of government, the faux airline should have ceased to exist, but it did not. In 2004, the company’s website was registered. It had a picture of antiquated Boeing 737-200 with a livery painted on in MS Paint, an empty letter from an unnamed company’s Chairman and CEO (“will be available soon”) and an offer for tickets to one of 6 destinations: Banjul, Dakar, Freetown, Abidjan, Accra, and Lagos.
No flights were conducted and the website went on sale several years later. There is no information on who operated the supposed company and whether there was any serious intent behind it. The airline was not registered with IATA, and although ROB airport lists its ICAO code (LOA), there is no mention of it anywhere in the organization’s records from the period, or any time later.
Lone Star (Vol. 3)
Which brings us to 2020 and the opening ceremony at the airport, which had a large crowd of onlookers and plenty of Lone Star Air promotional material. Large banner, promising that the airline is “Coming soon”, was placed near the entrance, and an even larger one – in the main hall of the building. Both of them featured an Embraer ERJ-135 regional jet with yet another version of the company’s livery and logo. The ceremony lasted for over an hour, as government officials expressed their joy at the upcoming economic recovery of the country.
“It will be a pride and an honor for every Liberian to [be able to] fly directly from Liberia to the USA,” Liberia’s deputy information minister Eugene Fahghon told journalists after the ceremony ended. Neither he, nor other officials explained what aircraft will take Liberians across the ocean, or when the flights will start. Instead, the minister kept pointing at the “Lone Star Queens” – a company of young women in an assortment of crowns and pageant belts posing all around the airport.