PenAir Plane Gets 10-Month Hawaiian Vacation

Tuesday, February 14 2012

Cold Bay is an ordinary refueling point for PenAir flights. Their planes leave from Anchorage, touch down on the Alaska Peninsula, and then usually continue on to the Aleutian Islands. But this weekend, one of those planes took a big turn south. Instead of traveling to Unalaska, PenAir Flight 364 went all the way down to Hawaii.

"It’s pretty exciting. You don’t see a Saab turboprob going all the way from Anchorage, Alaska to Honolulu very often,” says Melissa Anderson, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.

According to Anderson, the pilot wasn’t going rogue or trying to sneak down to warmer climes for a break from Alaska’s cold winter. PenAir was actually ferrying the Saab 340 as part of a contract with a Hawaii-based airline. The plane will spend the next 10 months bouncing around the archipelago as a temporary member of Island Air’s fleet. In the meantime, PenAir is working on getting a replacement plane for its own fleet within the next two months.

Anderson says that leasing the plane to an airline in need was good business for PenAir, and that the company does not anticipate that the arrangement will disrupt service in Alaska.

“It’s not going to do anything,” says Anderson. “The really perfect marriage with this wet lease is that it allowed us to actually take an aircraft and lease it out to someone during our slow period. So, we’ve made it through A season and February is typically a really quiet month for us, so we were able to actually lease it out to these folks, Island Air in Hawaii, during our slow season. Then, in April, we’ll bring on another one to replace it.”

This is the first time that PenAir has ever done anything like this. While their turboprops travel to states like North Carolina and Tennessee for regular maintenance, they get to make a number of refueling stops along the way. To get the 30-person planes down to Hawaii, they had to work with an outside contractor who set up the plane so it could re-fuel in mid-air.

“He came in with some bladders that they placed inside the aircraft. Those bladders held excess fuel,” says Anderson. “Then, they actually ran some tubing onto the fuel tanks of the aircraft, so that they could refuel the aircraft as they were heading along south to the Hawaiian Islands.”

The flight took 10 hours, and there was no escort. When Flight 364 landed in Honolulu, it still had about 2,000 pounds of fuel left to burn.

The plane is expected to return from Hawaii by next January, just in time for PenAir’s busiest season.


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