EDITORIAL – Cayman Airways flies into its future on Boeing Max 8 wings

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

Thus wrote David Ogilvy, perhaps the greatest “adman” ever, in the world’s most memorable automobile advertisement – ever.

We thought of Mr. Ogilvy and the silence of a Rolls-Royce soon after we settled into a Cayman Airways business class seat of our national airline’s brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, which had arrived in Grand Cayman last week from the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington.

What impressed us immediately was the quietude of the cabin – no need for noise-canceling headphones on this aircraft. Unlike on the aging rattletraps of the other airplanes in CAL’s fleet (all soon to be replaced with new Max 8’s), conversation, even at library-whisper levels, was easily audible and comfortable.

That was a good thing because we were seated next to Paul Tibbetts, chief financial officer of Cayman Airways, who knows everything, well, nearly everything, about the airline industry and the acquisition of the new planes. Anything he does not know, the fellow in the seat ahead of him certainly does. That would be Fabian Whorms, who is CEO of Cayman Airways. (Both Mr. Tibbetts and Mr. Whorms, along with CAL Board Chairman Philip Rankin, oversaw the highly complex negotiations to acquire the new aircraft.) Additional fellow travelers in the business-class cabin were Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell and his fellow Cabinet minister, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.

For practical purposes, we were on the “inaugural flight” of the new plane, joined by about 60 invited guests, mostly CAL employees who were along for a (very) short flight to show off the new plane to our Brac brethren.

We made this flight just at the time when a rumor began circulating that the plane (too large) could not land at the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport (too small). What better way to disprove that “fake news” than a smooth landing with plenty of runway left over?

The aircraft itself is marvelous by any measure. From the upholstery on the seats (specially designed to feature Cayman Islands’ colors) to the palm-frond fabric covering of the bulkhead, this is a bespoke aircraft obviously tailored and appointed for the Cayman Islands. (Interesting fact: Cayman Airways is the only carrier in the Caribbean currently to fly this airplane. To date, only approximately 250 have come off the Boeing assembly line; 5,000 are on “back order.”)

“Little things” in this aircraft have been meticulously attended to. The public address system (Thank Heaven!) acoustically could pass muster in Carnegie Hall; the interior cabin lighting can be adjusted from bright white to any number of complexion-pleasing hues. This weekend, WiFi will be available when the plane enters its commercial rotation.

On short trips, the estimated fuel efficiency of the new jet turbines (approximately 20 percent improvement over the current models), of course, does not mean much. A thimbleful of jet fuel will propel this flagship from Owen Roberts to the Sister Islands, but the savings on long-haul trips, say, to New York or Denver, will be substantial and, over time, go a long way toward defraying the costs of these planes.

(FYI, a remarkable video exists, produced by Boeing with time-lapse technology, showing the actual construction of the very plane we were on for our Brac trip. Every assembly line step of the building of the aircraft, from its bare-bones beginnings to the final application of the familiar Cayman Airways colors and tailfin logo, is documented. We will try to do a deal with Cayman Airways to allow us to share the video on our Compass website.)

In any event, we think the timing of the acquisition of the four new aircraft (the other three will arrive between February 2019 and mid-2020) could not be more appropriate. Our national carrier will have two of its new planes just in time for the grand opening of its new home base – our much-anticipated new Owen Roberts International Airport. That ribbon cutting is scheduled for late January.