Sounds Air (S8, Picton) is one step closer to purchasing larger aircraft to be deployed along its Blenheim – Christchurch route, with the airline’s board agreeing to research the acquisition of three 19-seater Beech 1900Ds, reports New Zealand news site Stuff. Sounds Air’s CEO Andrew Crawford said that a decision will be made in December, with the new aircraft joining the fleet as early as 1Q18.
“We need to get onto it as soon as possible, so we’re actively pursuing a decision. We’d be moving into twin-engines, and two pilots so it would be a huge step for us,” Crawford said.
The route, which is currently served with 9-seat PC-12 equipment, has proved popular since Sounds Air began plying it last September. It had previously been served by Air New Zealand, but the national carrier abandoned it in July 2016. Demand increased following an earthquake at Kaikoura last November which closed the state highway, and has remained strong ever since. Although the highway is expected to reopen late this year, Crawford is confident that the route will remain profitable.
“There’s a lot of people that still wouldn’t drive that road,” he said. “You can’t go to Christchurch and back for a meeting even if the road is open and perfect.”
If the new aircraft are approved, they will join Sounds Air’s fleet of five Cessna (single turboprop) 208 Caravans and five Pilatus PC-12s.