A new 34-seat turboprop aircraft purchased for the Cayman Brac commuter route has yet to be put into service, more than two months after arriving on island.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said Cayman Airways flight crews were still completing their training on the new aircraft, which has also been going through the process of de-registering in the U.S. and being registered in the Cayman Islands.
Answering questions during Friday’s session of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Kirkconnell said the plane, a Saab 340/B plus model, would soon be flying on the scheduled routes between Grand Cayman and the Brac.
Cayman Airways CEO Fabian Whorms told the Cayman Compass that the delays were due, in part, to the availability of training providers for operating crews and maintenance personnel.
He said many of the hold-ups were out of Cayman Airways control and were not uncommon issues facing airlines introducing new aircraft. He now expects the plane to be in use by mid November.
East End legislator Arden McLean led the questioning in the Legislative Assembly, asking why the training and regulatory requirements had not been substantially completed by the time the plane arrived on Aug. 14.
“That plane has been sitting up there for two-and-a-half months now,” he said.
Cayman Airways currently uses a 30-seat Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia, leased along with its crew on a temporary arrangement from Turks and Caicos-based InterCaribbean Airways, on the Brac route.
Mr. Kirkconnell said four CAL pilots had completed simulator training on the aircraft in Miami but still had to go through “check-out rides” in Cayman.
“It is going to be crewed by all Cayman Airways staff. That is the reason why it has not started yet,” he said.
“You have seen the plane sitting there. It is not that work has not been going on since Aug. 14. They have been working to de-register and re-register, and at the same time the pilots were in Miami training.”
Mr. Whorms said thousands of man-hours had been invested and all programs and manuals had been submitted for regulatory approval. He said introducing a new aircraft into service involved multiple steps and processes, the timing of which was not always within the airline’s direct control.
He added, “In all honesty, while time is of the essence, we are not measuring the success of this program on time lines and we are instead focused on getting the job done right.”
He said a final technical survey of the aircraft by the regulatory authority still needed to take place.
He added, “If all goes well, we are expecting to complete our check rides and demonstration flights during the first ten days of November and launch service in mid-November.”