AIR SEYCHELLES SIGNS ORDER FOR 3 DHC 6 – 400 TWIN OTTERS WITH VIKING
(Posted 29th October 2013)
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In a surprise announcement at a media briefing late this morning did the Air Seychelles CEO Cramer Ball break the news of the purchase of 3 state of the art Twin Otter DHC 6 – 400 aircraft, carrying the latest technical innovation with a Honeywell Integrated Avionics System which significantly improves the information made available to pilots while in flight but which also sends regular system performance indicators to the airline’s base at the Mahe International Airport.
The 20+ million US Dollar deal, which by the look of it is self-financed by Air Seychelles, will replace the ageing 3 Twin Otter DHC 6 -300’s, which have been with the airline for between 20+ and 30+ years. Delivery of the new birds, which will join another DHC 6 – 400 already delivered to Air Seychelles in 2010 and in regular service on the main domestic route to Praslin, will take place in June, August and September 2015, although the option of at least one earlier delivery has been kept open. Passenger numbers on the domestic routes have increased by double digit percentages, not only on the scheduled flights to Praslin but also on the charter flights to the outer islands and regular tourist flights to Bird Island, Denis and others.
This latest aircraft type of the former de Havilland company, now manufactured by Viking of Canada, still resembles the older version of the Twin Otter, which has become a hugely successful STOL aircraft [short takeoff and landing] and is in use all over Eastern Africa as a prime people mover on the various safari circuits in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and has earned itself a reputation as one of the most reliable twin engine 19 seat aircraft in used. The – 400 version incorporates new light weight technologies in material to save in fuel consumtion as well as uses stronger and more fuel efficient engines. A ‘glass cockpit’ where computer screens have replaced the rotary dials of old gives the clearest indication of the changes this aircraft type has undergone since production was relaunched in 2010 and Air Seychelles became one of the launch customers.
Viking will provide enhanced back up vis a vis maintenance and spare supplies, as the various mandatory checks – which become due either by cycles, hours flown or time elapsed – will be a regular feature at the Air Seychelles base in Mahe, considering that the fleet operates well over 200 flights a week and nearly 1.000 every month.
During a Q&A session with the Chairman of the Board of Directors Joel Morgan, who is also the Minister for Internal Affairs and Transport, the airline’s CEO Cramer Ball and the CEO of Viking David C. Curtis was it also confirmed that Air Seychelles was on course to attain the coveted Skytrax 4 star rating, as it rose through the ranks from near invisibility in the past to become the Indian Ocean’s second best rated airline, the 4th best globally for most improved airline and has now risen to position 55 from previously below 130 of Skytrax’ global rankings. Cramer also confirmed that in due course another major announcement would be made, likely to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Air Seychelles, or another major codeshare deal and cooperation agreement with an Asian airline, which should significantly expand the reach of Air Seychelles and allow for more passengers to come to the archipelago from the Asian growth markets.
Air Seychelles has since the arrival of Etihad on the scene, which has acquired a 40 percent stake and then seconded the top management to the airline, undergone a near miraculous revival, from staring into the abyss when former CEO Bram Stellar ruthlessly axed one long haul destination after the other and was talking of using a single B737NG for flights to South Africa and to Mauritius, to the newfound fortunes of flying in code share with Etihad to Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and to Mauritius and Johannesburg after phasing out the five aged B767 aircraft and acquiring two new Airbus A330’s. It will no doubt be a very happy 35th birthday for Air Seychelles, and their staff whose job security, with the acquisition of 3 new short haul Twin Otter DHC 6 – 400 aircraft is now secure in the long term. Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from the Indian Ocean’s vibrant airline scene.