Sunvoice

Editorial: Fly with Safety and Comfort

It’s confirmed that our national airline, Fiji Airways, will expand and upgrade the Twin Otter fleet of its domestic subsidiary, Fiji Link. This is by acquiring brand new and modern
30 Aug 2017 11:00
Editorial: Fly with Safety and Comfort
The Series 400 Twin Otters are scheduled for delivery between October 2017 and February 2018, and will be added to Fiji Airways’ existing fleet of three legacy Twin Otter aircraft based at Nadi International Airport. Viking Photo

It’s confirmed that our national airline, Fiji Airways, will expand and upgrade the Twin Otter fleet of its domestic subsidiary, Fiji Link.

This is by acquiring brand new and modern versions of the Twin Otter DHC-6 aircraft, with the agreement signed with Viking Air Limited for Series 400 planes.

The three aircraft arrive in October and early next year and replace two of the three existing DHC-6 Series 300s.

The cost of one of the new aircraft is $15 million and they will increase the Twin Otter fleet to four aircraft.

This is a big investment from our national airline, where it not only meets the public’s demand but also ensures that the safety and comfort of passengers and crew are not compromised.

Gone are the days, where our lives used to be at risk, when former local airlines that were operating then used to purchase ‘old and outdated’ aircraft to service the domestic routes.

That fear factor still lingers in the minds of many of our travelling public, who remember incidents from the past.

Critics have questioned the fact that the Twin Otter aircraft is out-dated and also its production has ceased. They are wrong…very wrong.   

The original Twin Otter was introduced in 1965, serving as a utility bush plane for Canada’s North. It quickly became a favourite of the developing regional airline business and, between 1965 and 1988, 844 were built- making it the world’s bestselling 19-passenger commuter airplane.

Then production of the Twin Otter aircraft moved to the next level after Viking Air Limited took over.

According to Viking Air Limited CEO Dave Curties, in an interview with Globe & Mail Report, the management decided that if they were going to be successful in the aircraft business, and continue to do it from a high cost, they needed to be selling products for which they owned the design. In 2004, following an injection of cash from the new majority owner Westerkirk Capital, the private-equity fund of Sherry Brydson (reportedly Canada’s richest woman), Viking entered into discussions with Bombardier about taking over design certificates for the de Havilland Single and Twin Otters, among other planes. A deal was struck and in 2010, the first “new” Twin Otter flew off the Viking airstrip.

In 2014, Viking had close to 100 orders for the new Twin Otter’s 400 series, which is structurally the same as the de Havilland aircraft but incorporates more than 800 tweaks to improve safety, increase performance and trim weight. The most significant changes include:

νA fully integrated digital avionics suite,

νAn upgraded engine and the use of lighter composite materials for non-structural elements.

νMost of the structural and detail parts (like wings and cockpit) are made in Victoria, Canada while the engine, avionics and composite structures are sourced from other manufacturers.

Air conditioned cabins

The success of the newly modified Twin Otter aircraft has stirred up lots of competition from the Czech Republic’s LET 410, Poland’s Skytruck and China’s Habin Y-12, which once graced our skies and according to Mr Curtis looked like a ‘direct copy of the Twin Otter’.

Today Viking Air Limited has delivered Twin Otters to operators as diverse as Malaysian Airlines, Air Seychelles and the Peruvian Air Force.

Not only has Viking gone to great lengths to assist their buyers , they have also trained their pilots and technical staff as well.

“We want them to be successful,” said Mr Curtis.

The newly modified Viking Twin Otter aircraft is surely going to increase the frequency and reliabilityof our domestic routes.

And also it’s in line with the plans of Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive Andre Viljoen to convert one of their current Twin Otter aircraft into a multi-use vehicle to cater not only for additional scheduled flying, but to provide opportunities for a new charter business, medical evacuation services and carriage of freight.

This is a worthwhile investment by Fiji Airways where not only is travelling made easier but the fact  safety is enhanced.

Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback:  leonec@fijisun.com.fj


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