Spanning Further

Spanning Further
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By Leithen Francis
Garuda Indonesia’s low-cost carrier Citilink has decided to order ATR 72-600s after the manufacturer agreed to help provide foreign pilots and maintenance technicians.

The airline will be ordering 25 ATR 72-600s, with options for 25 more, and first deliveries will be in September, Citilink CEO, Arif Wibowo, tells Aviation Week.

He says five aircraft will be delivered in 2013. The delivery schedule for the first 25 aircraft runs “up to 2015” and if the 25 options are converted into firm orders, the delivery schedule goes “up to 2017”, says Wibowo.

Prior to selecting the ATR 72-600, Citilink also considered the Bombardier Q400. Some industry sources had expected that Citilink would choose the Q400 to more clearly differentiate itself from its nearest competitor, Lion Air’s Wings Air, which is one of the largest ATR 72 operators in the world.

Wibowo says there were three key considerations to selecting the aircraft type: economic, such the purchase price; financing; and aircraft performance. “With these three considerations in mind, our target was to be the most competitive in the market.”

The aircraft’s fuel-burn and runway performance was important, Wibowo says, although ATR’s offer to help Citilink to get support from European export credit agencies also helped.

In the request for proposals, Citilink required bidders to present plan to provide pilots, and ATR has agreed to this condition, says Wibowo. He adds that Citilink likely will rely on foreign pilots for the first two or three years until enough locals can complete ab initio training at flying schools and then be type-rated for the ATR 72-600.

The type-rating will conducted at ATR’s new simulator training centre in Singapore, he notes.

Citilink is unable to source pilots from Garuda for the turboprop operation, says Wibowo, because of demand to supply parent company Garuda’s growing Boeing 737 operation.

“ATR also has agreed to fully support Citilink on the maintenance side for the first two years and to cooperate with Garuda’s maintenance, repair and overhaul company GMF AeroAsia,” says Wibowo. Under this agreement, ATR will providing maintenance technicians to ATR for the first two years, says Wibowo, adding that while it is normal practice for an aircraft manufacturer to assign one or two field representatives to a new customer, this deal will involve several more technicians.

Wibowo says Citilink plans to operate its ATR 72-600s from five hubs—Balikpapan, Batam, Jakarta, Lombok and Surabaya—across 45 routes. The number of daily frequencies will reach 300 in five years, he adds.

Services from Batam, an island near Singapore, will include international destinations such as Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia, Wibowo, while the ATRs will open domestic tourist destinations from Lombok.

Balikpapan is a hub for Kalimantan, one of Indonesia’s largest provinces, although Wibowo says the turboprops also will to link Balikpapan to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia’s Sabah province.

Wibowo says turboprops are ideal for low density, high yield routes. Garuda will code-share on some of Citilink’s turboprop flights, he adds.

(Aviation Week)

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