10 May 2023

Flying high: Queensland carrier Skytrans adds new planes to its fleet

| Samuel Davis
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SKYTRANS will take off to new destinations across Cape York and beyond as the airline aims to increase its share in the lucrative tourism and charter markets.

Fuelled by optimism within the aviation industry, the company will add two 50-seater Dash 8-300s to its fleet in the coming months with more planes en route in 2023.

Leased from Voyager Aviation Holdings in Canada, the Dash 8-300s can be used for charter services while creating new commercial opportunities for the airline, Skytrans CEO Alan Milne said.

“We’re looking at potential resource sector contracts at the moment,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“That requires us to bring in two new aeroplanes into the fleet, so it’s a big step forward for Skytrans.

“Long-term contracts give real stability to an airline at a time when things like COVID have affected passenger numbers across the country.

“Having long contracted work over a period of time gives you great stability.”

An aggressive growth strategy will underpin Skytrans’ services to key destinations like Aurukun, Kowanyama, Lockhart River and Pormpuraaw, Mr Milne said.

“It’s critical to communities in the Cape and Torres Strait that our service is available,” he said.

“It’s an extremely expensive operation to run but it’s absolutely critical for essential supplies, medical support and more.

“Especially during the wet season when the roads close to the Cape.

“Other than the barge, we’re the only way in or out.”

Having launched flights from Cairns to Proserpine last month, Mr Milne said creating new tourism routes through the Cape and Torres Strait was a priority.

“The Proserpine route is going well and we’re getting good passenger numbers both ways but we want to see what other tourism and leisure opportunities there are for Skytrans in the north,” he said.

“The area is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

“So there’s an amazing opportunity for the leisure market.”

The airline also aims to add a nine-seat Cessna 208 Caravan, with two additional planes replacing older models within the fleet next year.

Aviation analyst Neil Hansford said the Dash 8-300s were an “FNQ appropriate” purchase.

“They’re practically bomb proof and almost anyone could fly them. Skytrans have already got trained crews, trained engineers familiar with those types of planes,” Mr Hansford said last week.

“It’s relatively painless for them to add them to their fleet.

“There are also some remote runways in regional Queensland that have limited payload and length. That makes the 300 model ideal.”

By growing their fleet, Mr Hansford said Skytrans had sent a clear message to its competitors.

“It’s signalling to their rivals that, ‘hey, we’re back’,” he said.

“From a strategic point of view, I think Skytrans is looking to defend its business and become the established carrier in far north Queensland.

“(Group owner) Peter Collings is a very good operator. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he and (co-owner) Johnathan Thurston have done.”

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