The Falkland Islands Government Air Service has received funding approval from the Executive Council and the Standing Finance Committee for a new aircraft to replace Islander VP-FBM which incurred substantial structural damage while landing at Beaver Island in June.
This investment will bring the FIGAS fleet to a total of six once the new aircraft currently in production arrives later this year; this will further support the steady increase in passenger numbers, which has risen from 5,800 in 2011/12 to 8,800 in 2017/18. This increasing trend is forecast to continue with the burgeoning popularity of the Falkland Islands as a preferred tourist destination combined with the prospect of a second commercial air link with mainland South America.
A senior design engineer from Britten-Norman recently visited FIGAS to carry out a damage assessment on VP-FBM, however it was determined that to restore the 30 year-old Islander at significant expense would not be cost-effective and may affect future airworthiness.
Therefore, the recommendation was made to purchase a new aircraft which should have a working life of some 35 years, rather than undertake the repair and refurbishment of VP-FBM. If the order for the new aircraft is placed before the end of March, it is estimated that the new aircraft could arrive in the islands in the second quarter of 2020.
MLA Barry Elsby said: “We are satisfied that all of the necessary due diligence has been carried out with regard to the options for repairing or replacing Islander VP-FBM. The age of the aircraft and the amount of damage sustained have led to the conclusion that it is simply not economically prudent to attempt repairing it.
By purchasing a new aircraft, FIGAS will have greater resilience to meet current demand and ensure operational readiness for increased passenger traffic delivered by the second flight. The introduction of the new aircraft will also allow FIGAS to further improve the service they offer customers and give them greater flexibility to support local travel as well as cruise ship and land-based tourism for many seasons to come.”