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First set of LIAT fleet coming by mid-year – PM

First set of LIAT fleet coming by mid-year – PM

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Coverage of this country by regional airline LIAT should not be affected with the renewal of the current fleet of aircraft.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves on Wednesday announced that the first set of the new ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft which will replace the De Havilland Dash 8 300 aircraft, should begin service by the middle of the year.

Following a December 28 shareholders’ meeting held in Barbados, a decision was taken that the fleeting process with new aircraft would begin immediately with 12 new aircraft.

The shareholders agreed that five will be purchased and seven leased, going against the original agreement for six to be purchased and six leased, Gonsalves explained.

But there will be difficulties for the ATR 72, which has a carrying capacity of 68, to operate at the existing E.T. Joshua Airport, due to wind factors, the prime minister said.

“But we are not going to be at that facility much longer,” he said.

And there should be enough of the 50-seater Dash 8 300 aircraft to service this country, Gonsalves continued.

“So, there will still be coverage for E.T. Joshua,” the prime minister said.

“It is important that I explain this to you, because a lot of people will come and talk very authoritatively, but it doesn’t mean you listen to them,” he continued.

It is expected that the 12 new aircraft will be in service by 2014, Gonsalves said.

“And we will then begin to phase out the older planes.”

The average age of one of the existing aircraft, according to Gonsalves, was 19, which in turn meant that maintenance costs were high.

“There will be transitional costs, because [we are] moving from the De Havilland aircraft to the ATR’s,” he explained.

Gonsalves defended the decision to purchase the ATR, saying that the Dash 8 was no longer in production.

“They (De Havilland) have moved from those to the Q400, a 70-seater plane and when we did the comparison to the Q400 and the ATR 72 and the technical people did the comparison it showed that the ATR 72’s are more economical to run for about 90 per cent of our market.

The other option was to refurbish the existing fleet.

“Now, we made inquiries of De Havilland to do that, but you couldn’t get any guarantees on the refurbishment I was told and the costing was not favourable,” Gonsalves said.

And if there is a fleet of 20-year-old aircraft, although they were refurbished, in five years they would then be 25 years old, he reasoned.

The cost of the new aircraft is US$23.3 million, of which $17.2 million has to be provided this year.

This country’s contribution is US$2 million, of which a payment of EC$3.8 million was made in November 2012. (DD)

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