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New LIAT ATR 72-600 aircraft lands in SVG

New LIAT ATR 72-600 aircraft lands in SVG

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After months of anticipation, LIAT’s new aircraft, an ATR 72-600, made its inaugural flight to the E.T. Joshua airport on Wednesday.

Described as an “emotional moment” by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the 70-seater airplane landed at the E.T. Joshua Airport at about 10:30 a.m.{{more}}, and was greeted by a traditional “water salute” — the ceremonial spraying of water on its fuselage by water carriers — as it approached the tarmac.

On board Wednesday’s flight was chairman of the LIAT Board of Directors, Dr Jean Holder, chief executive officer Ian Brunton and other members of LIAT’s top management.

The delegation was greeted by the Prime Minister and other government officials, contestants in the Miss Carival Pageant and the media.

In a short ceremony, Gonsalves explained that the introduction of these new ATR 600s to LIAT’s current fleet of 14 Dash 8 aircraft is a part of the airline’s restructuring plans aimed at fleet modernization and network improvements.

LIAT, which flies to 21 destinations in the Caribbean, has put a price tag of US$100 million on the re-fleeting and retooling of staff, Gonsalves said.

He, however, stated that there that there are benefits to be derived from the large investment in the new aircraft.

According to Gonsalves, by progressively replacing its current fleet of Dash 8 aircraft with the modern and more fuel efficient ATRs, the airline will significantly reduce operating and maintenance costs, increase profitability and offer more comfort to its passengers, due to its enhanced seat design.

“These new planes will help us over the next two years to keep our maintenance cost very low and to facilitate us in having LIAT turn around from an operational deficit to an operational gain,” he said.

“This is a very emotional moment for me because it is a long, long journey…” he said.

Gonsalves, who also serves as the chairman of the LIAT share– holder governments, said Wednesday’s event had “almost a spiritual flavour.”

“There is an amazing grace that brought us safe with LIAT thus far. And I am certain with our plans that amazing grace will take us home to them.”

According to the Prime Minister, LIAT shareholder governments — Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines — expect that with these new vessels, LIAT would

be able to spread its wings as far as the southern and east coast of the United States, and into South America.

Gonsalves said the re-fleeting of LIAT is “very important” to this country, which is slated to open its international airport “next year around this time.”

The French-manufactured ATR is being leased from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), which has its headquarters in Ireland.

The aircraft that landed on Wednesday is the first of 12 ATRs to be introduced into LIAT’s fleet.

The ATR 72-600 is said to have a maximum take-off power of 2,750 horsepower per engine. It carries a maximum weight at take-off of 23,000 kg, maximum payload of 7,500kg and can travel some 900 nautical miles (1,665 Km) with full passenger load. (AA)

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