Air Kiribati (IK, Tarawa) has taken delivery of its maiden Dash 8-100 following the arrival of C-FRXH (msn 388) in Tarawa on Monday, October 30.
In a statement, the state-owned carrier said the 23-year-old aircraft would undergo 100 hours of testing before being deployed into commercial service where it will be used to primarily connect the domestic ports of Abemama, Butaritari, Tabiteuea North, and Nikunau. Internationally, plans call for it to be used to open up service to Funafuti (Tuvalu), Majuro (Marshall Islands) and other nearby island states.
Air Kiribati currently operates four aircraft – one DHC-6-300 and three Y12s – on flights covering the South Pacific archipelago. To that end, it has based one Y12F on Kiritimati (Christmas) Island to serve the Line Island group while the remaining three aircraft tend to the Kiribati Island group.
According to a government study, the Bombardier (BBA, Montréal Trudeau) twinprop was acquired to meet growing demand for domestic as well as international air services which, aside from insufficient capacity, have been negatively affected by the poor condition of runways on most i-Kiribati atolls as well as erratic Jet A-1 supplies.
To support the Q100’s operations, government will upgrade six island airfields to handle the type by 2019 and nineteen by 2036. In order to improve connectivity and accessibility throughout the island chain, the number of flight schedules per month will also be increased to 30 by 2019 and to 50 by 2036.
In order to bolster Kiribati’s international links, government has also alluded to adding an Airbus jet – presumably a member of the A320 Family – to add to Air Kiribati’s fleet. The aircraft is being procured for the carrier by the Taiwanese government and is tentatively due in early 2018.