Cobham Aviation has retired its last Avro RJ100 and BAe 146 aircraft from its fleet, in favour of the De Havilland Dash 8 Q400.
The airline’s final RJ100, VH-NJE, performed its last passenger flight in Adelaide on Friday evening before being met with a water cannon salute to mark the end of an era for the regional fly-in fly-out and charter operator.
Cobham had been operating its BAe 146 and Avro RJ fleets for 32 years prior to Friday’s final farewell and has now shifted focus to its new and growing fleet of Dash 8 turboprops.
The carrier commenced charter and FIFO operations out of Adelaide solely on its Q400 fleet on Monday, 6 June, with charter services to Port Augusta, Prominent Hill, and Carrapateena.
Cobham Regional Services managing director Claude Alviani said, “We’re thrilled to this week introduce the Q400 in South Australia – an aircraft known for its jet-like speed, outstanding airfield performance, and enhanced operational reliability.
“The Q400 turboprop has the lowest fuel consumption per passenger seat of any turboprop in the industry. It offers a 30 per cent reduction in fuel burn compared with competing regional jets, radically reducing carbon emissions.”
Alviani said the BAe 146 and RJ aircraft had been workhorses of regional aviation, particularly in South Australia and Western Australia, for decades.
“They’ve had a significant impact on our national aviation history – whether it be FIFO flights, regular passenger transport (RPT) services with Australian Airlink and later QantasLink, or charter services across Australia and even overseas,” Alviani said.
“We thank all of our employees, clients and partners – past and present – who have operated and supported these aircraft throughout their lifetime with Cobham.”
In February, Australian Aviation reported that Cobham has welcomed its sixth Dash 8 Q400 into its fleet, to support its operations out of Perth. The carrier has also been investing in Embraer E190 jets, another key step in its greener fleet renewal.
It comes after Cobham’s global parent company was revealed to be seeking to sell off its Australian business, in a deal expected to be worth over $1 billion.
According to a report by The Australian Financial Review, US-based private equity firm Advent International, which owns UK company Cobham and its Australian branch Cobham Aviation Services Australia, has hired Australian investment bank Macquarie Capital to oversee the sale and seek out potential buyers.
The report suggests the auction will take place in two parts, making it likely that the businesses’ two major units – that being its charter/FIFO operations and its special missions unit – will be sold off separately.
Cobham Aviation Services Australia reported $368 million revenue and $87.2 million EBITDA in the year to December 2020, making it the third biggest player in Australia’s aviation industry behind Qantas and Virgin Australia.
It is understood that Cobham’s special missions unit, which largely includes government contracts for conducting airborne surveillance and search and rescue operations, makes up the majority of the Australian business’ earnings.
Cobham Aviation Services Australia also boasts over $407 million in assets and over 30 aircraft in its fleet.