Photo Courtesy of Embraer
SA Airlink recently announced a fleet modernization program that will see the South African based carrier add several models from the Embraer E-jet series.
In a press release on 19 January, Airlink announced that it will be acquiring 3 Embraer E170s, and 2 Embraer E190s. These aircraft will be brought into the fleet along with an ongoing acquisition of 11 ERJ-140s, some of which have already been added to the fleet.
According to Rodger Foster, CEO of Airlink, the program is part of a long term growth strategy.
“This is the beginning of the implementation of a well planned growth and modernization strategy for Airlink that includes replacing our current fleet of Avro RJ85s over the next three years. The strategy calls for a total of 13 E-Jets, and we are in the process of sourcing the balance of the fleet requirement – an additional 8 E190s – from the market. The unique performance characteristics of the E-Jet family will enable Airlink to operate within the challenging environment of the region, including short field and “hot and high” operations, while managing capacity and providing for growth.”
It is no coincidence that the acquisition announcement comes shortly after Embraer successfully performed airport trials on the Island of St Helena. The airframer recently took one of its E190 demonstrators to St Helena to prove it’s viability in operating safely from the airport.
Although Foster didn’t directly acknowledge plans for the new route, he hinted at it strongly in Airlink’s press release, and it seems as though Airlink is serious in competing for the route.
Foster also said, “the E190’s ETOPS (Extended Twin Engine Operations) capability and range presents Airlink with new market opportunities to address isolated destinations that were previously beyond our reach and in some instances that have never enjoyed the privilege of reliable scheduled air services. Embraer has proven to be an excellent partner for Airlink on our ERJ fleet, and we look forward to the continuation of superb customer support as we enter a new chapter of growth with the E-Jets.”
Rival South African domestic carrier, Comair performed route proving flights to St Helena in early 2016, but established that their ETOPS equipped 737-800 could not be operated within their own comfortable margins of safety. St Helena Airport is positioned atop a sheer cliff, and wind shear was reported to be a major factor.
If Airlink succeeds in establishing its presence on this route, it will be a major step forward for the carrier.
See the video from Embraer’s trial at St Helena below