The Falkland Island Government Air Service (FIGAS) is hoping that Britten Norman can stick to its production schedule as the operator awaits a pair of Islanders. Captain Andrew Alazia says: “We’re anticipating receiving our first new aircraft in October this year, and the next one towards the middle of next year.” Once they are both delivered, the aircraft will bring the operator’s fleet to six Islanders.
The investment, approved by the islands’ government, will be used to meet the Falklands’ increasing popularity as a tourist destination. Passenger numbers have risen from 5,800 to 8,800 over the past five years, a trend that FIGAS expects to continue in the future. Both Islanders are configured for commuter roles and equipped with the Garmin G600TXi avionics suite, System 55X autopilot and Spidertracks. Britten-Norman’s team of avionics engineers will deliver Garmin avionics training in the Falklands upon the first aircraft’s arrival.
“Our winter here is currently being taken up with servicing and main-tenance of the fleet to be ready for our increasingly busy tourist season,” adds Alazia. “It’s normally late November here when things start to pick up a bit, and then from mid-December until mid-March things get quite hectic before calming down again for the winter months.”
FIGAS’ primary role is passenger and freight transport around the islands, for which the Islander is well suited because of its short field and rugged runway performance characteristics. He continues: “The standard O-540 Lycoming engines in particular are great for short hops and quick turnarounds too. We only operate out of two surfaced aerodromes (Stanley and Mount Pleasant airports), the rest are all grass and clay/gravel. Other duties include maritime patrol of our fisheries conservation zone and flight calibration of Navaids, along with a small amount of charter and scenic flying.”
FIGAS has operated Islanders since October 1979. The service has gradually evolved from air ambulance and mail transportation in 1948 to offer passenger, freight, fishery patrol and scenic flights, with tourists and local passengers making up most of the traffic. The Islander’s performance as a high frequency and short flight platform makes it the ideal aircraft for hopping to almost 30 different airfields located in the Falkland Islands’ east and west mainlands.