Monday, August 24, 2015

First Flying bids farewell to Islander, welcomes Twin Otter.

On August 2nd, First Flying [DAK] introduced the 19-seat Viking Air DHC-6-400 Twin Otter on the Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Aguni [AGJ/RORA] route. The newly-delivered aircraft replaced the nine-seat Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2B-20 Islander, which operated its last revenue flight on July 31st, on their three-times-daily 25-minute hop connecting Naha and the remote island. This leaves Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK]-based New Japan Aviation [NJA] as the last remaining airline flying the Islander in Japan.

Viking/de Havilland Canada DHC-6-400 Twin Otter JA201D is adorned with colorful decals of the mascots of Aguni, Ishigaki, Taketomi (Hateruma), and Tarama, which are First Flying's current and soon-to-be-served destinations. (Photo: First Flying)

First Flying originally inherited two Islanders from Ryukyu Air Commuter [RAC] in 2009 to take over the Naha – Aguni link as well as launch Naha – Okinoerabu [OKE/RJKB] – Tokunoshima [TKN/RJKN] in June that year. However, just over a year later in September 2010, the tiny carrier announced it could no longer afford to continue the routes after heavy losses. Termination was averted after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), and later Okinawa prefecture, stepped in to subsidize the essential air links.

A farewell banner was placed on the walls at Aguni Airport's tiny terminal to commemorate the retirement of the Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2B Islander. (Photo: First Flying)

Meanwhile, First Flying is now preparing to reinstate two island-hopping routes from Ishigaki [ISG/ROIG] on December 1st: Hateruma [HTR/RORH] and Tarama [TRA/RORT]. The former hasn't seen scheduled air service since November 2008, while the latter has manged to retain a link to Miyako [MMY/ROMY] with Ryukyu Air Commuter. The brand-new DHC-6-400s will be deployed on these routes as well.

Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2B-20 Islander JA5325 at Aguni. First Flying operated three examples. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The small island-hopping niche airline is the Japanese launch customer for the revamped new-generation variant of the venerable STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) aircraft originally developed by de Havilland Canada back in 1964 (First Flying orders two Viking Air DHC-6-400 Twin Otters.). The two aircraft arrived in March 26th, and had been used on proving flights and crew training mostly at Kagoshima.

After purchasing all type certificates from Bombardier Aerospace for all out-of-production models from the DHC-1 to the DHC-7, Viking Air started offering the DHC-6-400 in July 2006. The revamped STOL turboprop boasts more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34/35 engines, Honeywell Primus Apex fully-integrated avionics, deletion of the AC electrical system and beta backup system, modernization of the electrical and lighting system, and composites for non-load-bearing structures such as doors.

Source: Japan General Aviation Service, 2015 March 31st. (in Japanese)
Source: First Flying @ Facebook.
Source: Yaeyama Mainichi Shimbun, 2015 August 19th. (in Japanese)

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