Jet back in action as older plane ‘retires’

Ellen Peguero, supervisor, Airport Customer Care, signs a farewell message to the retiring plane on behalf of the airline’s airport staff.

Cayman Airways’ newest jet, a Boeing 737-800, is back in service nearly two months after mechanical issues forced an emergency landing at Owen Roberts International Airport.

The airline’s CEO Fabian Whorms said the plane had to be fitted with a new engine, while mechanics in Germany investigate and attempt to repair the damage to the original.

“We had to lease an engine. It is not like they are just sitting there waiting,” said Mr. Whorms, explaining the delay between the incident on Sept. 14 and the plane returning to operational duty last week.

He said the engine had been sent to a shop in Germany for repairs and the airline had leased a replacement from the same operator.

He said he had no information on the cause of the engine damage which led to a Tampa bound flight KX200 being turned around.

The aircraft was manufactured in 2003 and previously operated by Norwegian Air Shuttle. Cayman Airways acquired the plane in November through a two-year leasing agreement as a placeholder for two new B737-8 Max airplanes, expected to be delivered in November 2018.

Mr. Whorms, speaking at a Legislative Assembly Finance Committee hearing on Cayman Airways’ budget on Wednesday, acknowledged the incident would leave the airline out of pocket. Though the plane is on lease, he said the contract left Cayman Airways with responsibility for repairs.

Cayman Airways staff and guests sign their names and farewell messages on the nose of VP-CKY before her final departure from the Cayman Islands

Because the airline has only operated the plane for 20 percent of the time since its last engine overhaul, however, he said, they would only be required to pay 20 percent of the repair cost.

The national carrier is slowly transitioning its fleet to B737-8 Max airplanes, the latest, most fuel-efficient model from Boeing.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Whorms, along with board members, management and staff of Cayman Airways, bid farewell to one of the four Boeing 737-300 aircraft, VP-CKY, in its fleet.

The plane’s final flight was flown by Captain Perry Panton and Captain Steven Coe to the Goodyear maintenance facility in Phoenix, Arizona, where Cayman Airways’ lease will terminate and the aircraft will be retired from service by its leasing company.

Mr. Whorms said in a press release that the 737-800, which came into service in December, was the replacement for the retiring plane, part of Cayman Airways’ fleet since 2003.

“At this point, the 737-800 introduction program is complete in all respects, and the 737-800 aircraft will remain in the fleet as a bridge aircraft until December 2018 when it will be replaced by the airline’s first, state of the art, Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft,” Mr. Whorms explained. “Over the next few years, the three remaining 737-300 aircraft in the current fleet will be retired and replaced by three 737-8 Max aircraft between 2019 and 2020.”

Cayman Airways staff and board members bid farewell to one of the airline’s jets as it made its final flight Wednesday.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.