Townsville-based West Wing Aviation has purchased the former airline’s air operator’s certificate (AOC) from Skytrans administrators Bentleys Chartered Accountants and leased two of its Dash 8 Q100 turboprops VH-QQA and VH-QQG.
The company conducted proving flights under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on Tuesday morning.
The first regular public transport (RPT) flight of the “new” Skytrans is scheduled to be a Cairns-Bamaga service on Wednesday.
There will be a few familiar faces when that first RPT service takes off, given West Wing has reinstated 39 former Skytrans staff. However, the airline’s old livery has been refreshed with new colours and a different font.
West Wing commercial manager Michael Thinee said an important condition of acquiring the AOC was having many of the former Skytrans staff in place.
“We are very happy,” Thinee told Australian Aviation on Tuesday.
“It was a prerequisite of CASA giving us the AOC to ensure that all the key personnel were in place.
“It is basically the same operational management structure that existed with the previous airline.”
Skytrans ended its 25 years of flying on January 2, when then chief executive Simon Wild announced he was shutting down the airline to protect staff entitlements and superannuation. At the time, he said the high US dollar, the loss of Queensland government route contracts and the slowdown in the resources sector left him no choice but to wind up the company.
The Queensland Government moved swiftly and brought in West Wing and Hinterland Aviation to operate RPT flights to the affected communities, whose only reliable transport during the wet season is by air given roads are often flooded.
Thinee said those Cape York RPT routes currently flown by West Wing would gradually be shifted to Skytrans.
That would leave West Wing to focus on its core charter business.
Bookings for Skytrans services were currently made through the West Wing website. However, the company hoped to have an operational Skytrans website for ticket sales after Easter.
Thinee said the Dash 8 aircraft were “incredibly good for what the market requires up there”, particularly for cargo.
“Cargo is paramount and a lot of commerce is generated out of the region on the back of the Dash 8 aircraft because of its cargo capacity for things like live seafood for example,” Thinee said.
“None of the other operations can do that without being a dedicated charter so basically you are paying someone to fly one-way empty to bring back a load.”
West Wing had options on a further six Dash 8 Q100s previously operated by Skytrans and the decision on whether to exercise those options, and potentially employ more staff, would depend on how these new flights performed.
“Our intentions are to get as many employees as we can,” Thinee said.
Regional Express (Rex), operated its first Cape York route on Monday with when it flew from Cairns to Bamaga.