One of the country’s smaller airlines is celebrating the arrival of its newest aircraft after it completed an epic 18,000km journey from the other side of the world.
Staff and crew at Barrier Air were toasting the new Cessna Grand Caravan as it arrived into Auckland Airport on Thursday evening.
The aircraft had undertaken a marathon 12-day trip from Brest in France involving 13 stops to reach New Zealand.
CEO Grant Bacon told Stuff Travel that the plane’s arrival has been the culmination of a long search.
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”We actually purchased this aircraft back in April, and we had some maintenance done in Europe. It’s quite a new aircraft in terms of hours at about 2700 hours total time.
“These planes are incredibly hard to find so it typically takes us about 18 months to search these Cessna Grand Caravans. After a lot of dead ends we found this one in Brest, France and we pounced on it.”
The airline bought it from Finistair, which like Barrier Air operates smaller regional routes. Getting the aircraft from France involved two crew, including one who specialises in these type of deliveries.
”There’s a whole bunch of permits and planning that goes into this trip, and considerations for fuel and good places to land and not so good places to land from a volatility point of view. He actually flew another airline’s aircraft to a similar destination, I think Guam, recently, so he knew the track here pretty well.”
The plane made a host of stops in the likes of Crete, Egypt, Dubai, Singapore and Australia.
The Cessna is the fifth in Barrier Air’s fleet and Bacon said the single engine, turbine-powered aircraft is the ideal type of plane for the airline to use.
“These aircraft are fantastic. They are incredibly green and also incredibly efficient. They have a 1.2 tonne carrying capacity, as in useful load. You can fit 13 passengers on these aircraft with ease and then all their bags, and there’s still a bit of weight in the right conditions for carrying a bit of food to the island as well.”
“It’s just an incredibly safe aircraft. They’re incredibly popular with airlines around the world and even wealthy private people are now buying them for their families.”
Another bonus of this particular aircraft is that there will be very few modifications to be made and it should be in full service, complete with Barrier Air’s livery, in two to three weeks.
“This one is even more rare because it has everything that we operate with. It has a Payload Extender which basically gives the aircraft larger wheels, stronger axels, and things like that. It also has a short field STOL kit and that gives you short field performance. We usually have to do quite a few modifications to get them to our specification but we haven’t had to, which is rare.”
The airline runs services between Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Kaitaia, Tauranga and Whitianga but Bacon admitted it’s quite a challenging time in the industry, despite an uptick in passengers.
“At the moment fuel prices are terrible. We’re really struggling with that. It’s increased three-fold in the last six to nine months. Yeah, everything’s just seems to be going up in terms of cost … it’s fighting an inflation fire. Every month you seem to be spending more and more to just pay your way. But this game has always been challenging, and any profit is hard-earned.”
But for now the crew at Barrier Air can celebrate an important new member of the airline’s fleet.