One of the country’s smaller airlines is celebrating the arrival of its newest plane after it has completed an epic 18,000km journey from the other end of the world.
Barrier Air staff and crew toasted the new Cessna Grand Caravan as it arrived at Auckland Airport on Thursday evening.
The plane had made a 12-day, 13-stop marathon journey from Brest in France to reach New Zealand.
said CEO Grant Bacon things travel that the plane’s arrival was the culmination of a long search.
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“We bought this aircraft back in April and had some maintenance done in Europe. It’s a fairly new aircraft in terms of hours at around 2700 hours total time.
“These planes are incredibly difficult to find, so it typically takes us about 18 months to search these Cessna Grand Caravans. After many dead ends we found this one in Brest, France and we jumped at it.”
The airline bought it from Finistair, which, like Barrier Air, operates smaller regional routes. Getting the plane from France required two crew members, including one who specializes in this type of delivery.
“There’s a whole lot of permitting and planning that goes into this trip and fuel considerations and good landing spots and not so good landing spots from a volatility perspective. He actually recently flew on another airline’s plane to a similar destination, Guam I think, so he knew the route here pretty well.”
The plane made numerous stops in 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 aircraft type for the airline.
“These planes are fantastic. They are incredibly green and also incredibly efficient. They have a lifting capacity of 1.2 tons, as in payload. You can easily pack 13 passengers and then all their bags on this plane and there is still a bit of weight in the right conditions to carry some food to the island as well.”
“It’s just an incredibly safe plane. They are incredibly popular with airlines around the world and even wealthy individuals are now buying them for their families.”
Another advantage of this particular aircraft is that very few modifications need to be made and it should be fully commissioned in two to three weeks, complete with Barrier Air’s livery.
“This one is even rarer because it has everything we work with. It has a payload extender which basically gives the plane bigger wheels, stronger axles and things like that. It also has a short field STOL kit and that gives you short field performance. We usually have to make some changes to fit our specifications, but this has rarely been the case.”
The airline operates flights between Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Kaitaia, Tauranga and Whitianga, but Bacon admitted it’s quite a challenging time in the industry despite a surge in passenger numbers.
“Right now fuel prices are terrible. We’re really struggling with that. It has tripled in the last six to nine months. Yes, everything just seems to be rising in terms of cost… it’s fighting an inflationary fire. Every month you seem to be spending more and more just to pay your way. But this game has always been a challenge and every win is hard earned.”
But now the Barrier Air crew can celebrate an important new addition to the airline’s fleet.