Regular air services look set to return to Cape York communities Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama that were lost after Skytrans shut down, with Cairns-based Hinterland Aviation planning begin flights from Cairns before the end of the month.
The regional operator is workingwith the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to upgrade its Air Operator’s Certificate to allow it commence regular public transport (RPT) flights by January 21.
Hinterland Aviation chief executive Mark Dorward says the airline has spoken with the local councils in the area and has a proving flight scheduled for Wednesday.
“We’ve already operated a couple of training flights and done the port assessments,” Dorward told Australian Aviation on Tuesday.
“We are expecting approval from Canberra early next week at the latest.”
Remote communities in Cape York were left without regular air services after Skytrans chief executive Simon Wild shut down the airline on January 2, just a day after its 25-year anniversary.
Hinterland planned to run seven flights a week to Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama using 12-seat Cessna Caravans, with two flights on Mondays and Fridays, and one flight on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Previously, Skytrans used 36-seat Dash 8s four times a week on the route.
“Because we are operating smaller aircraft with less capacity, we are actually satisfying existing demand by adding those extra services,” Dorward said.
“The communities are really happy with that because it gives them flexibility.”
Dorward said Hinterland would offer similar if slightly lower fares to what Skytrans was charging, with one-way tickets prices about $400 on average.
Hinterland was also considering overnighting an aircraft in Pormpuraaw to allow for a same-day return to Cairns, Dorward said.
The operator owned four Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft and had no debt, which “puts us in a very good position to provide a strong service to these two communities”, he said.
Dorward said Hinterland had already done some preliminary work on operating flights to Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama prior to the Skytrans shutdown, with a management team in place evaluating potential opportunities that would arise in the event its local rival stopped flying.
Regional Express (Rex) said on Friday it planned to start flights from Cairns to Aurukun, Edward River, Kowanyama and Bamaga from mid-March and was currently seeking regulatory approval from CASA to start regular public transport (RPT) services with 34-seat Saab 340s to those communities.
“Lockhart River and Coen present more operational challenges and are still being analysed for feasibility,” Rex said on January 9.
Skytrans is currently under voluntary administration with Bentleys Chartered Accountants.
A meeting of creditors to be held in Brisbane has been scheduled for Friday. More details about the creditors meeting can be found here.