Figas has begun upgrading the avionics of VP-FBD with a Garmin suite, and this is the second Islander in its fleet to undergo the refit and the company's oldest, highest-time Islander.
Having begun a substantial avionics upgrade on a second Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander under a program to upgrade the cockpits of all five Islanders in its single-type fleet, Falkland Islands Government Air Service (Figas) is awaiting a decision by the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands on the carrier’s request to buy a new sixth Islander from the manufacturer.
The avionics upgrade will ensure that Figas's existing Islanders remain productive for the next 10 years and that there will be cockpit commonality throughout the fleet, according to Kurt Whitney, quality manager for engineering and operations. However, he said tourism to the Falkland Islands is growing so quickly each year that “we’re starting to get to the struggle point and we definitely need to add another airframe” to meet growing tourist demand for sightseeing and other passenger-charter flights among the islands’ two airports and 30-plus airstrips.
Whitney told AIN that Figas decided on the avionics upgrade for its five Islanders, which range in age from 28 to 33 years, in part because “we had original fits in there and as time has gone on it has become harder and harder to get [replacement] instruments because of obsolescence.” Figas awarded the contract to Britten-Norman last year following a competitive tender, because the company’s bid “offered the best value,” he said. Britten-Norman has posted two engineers to Figas’s base at Port Stanley Airport to supervise the mechanical work, which the Figas maintenance staff is performing, and complete installation of the new avionics systems.
Figas also wanted each Islander’s cockpit to have GPS navigation capability and all five cockpits to be identical, or in the case of one aircraft very nearly so: the company's two oldest Islanders were originally outfitted with instrument panels “considerably different” from those of the three later aircraft, according to Whitney. Now, except for minor differences in the cockpit of one Islander, the instrument panels in all five single-pilot-operated aircraft will be “absolutely identical.” The one different Islander is flown in fisheries patrol operations, and thus is equipped with weather radar and a marine-band radio; it was the first aircraft given the avionics upgrade.
The upgrade adds the Garmin G600 display system as well as a GTN 650/750 GPS/com navigator, a GTX 335R remote-mount transponder, ADS-B Out, and electronic engine instrument display. Additionally, Figas's two oldest Islanders, which originally had 50-amp generators rather than the 70-amp generators installed in the three slightly younger aircraft, will be upgraded to 70-amp generators under a separate contract.
Under Britten-Norman supervision, Figas will upgrade the cockpits of its two oldest Islanders this year and will complete the upgrade program in 2019 with the refits of its two other passenger service-dedicated Islanders in 2019. But while the upgrade will give Figas at least a decade more in which to assess its potential future aircraft needs, Whitney said the Falkland Islands government has already performed “a lot of work” studying potential Islander replacement types. Of particular interest is the Tecnam P2012 Traveller, and the government is planning to keep a close eye on Cape Air’s operational experience with the first 20 P2012s it has ordered.
(Chris Kjelgaard - AINOnline News)