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Cambodia Angkor Air purchases first aircraft

National carrier buys ATR-72 without disclosing price or seller

NEW national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) has bought its first aircraft, which is now flying from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, aviation officials said Thursday.

CAA purchased the new ATR-72 aircraft, manufactured by a French-Italian company, and obtained its Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the government’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SCAA) last week.

“We brought a brand-new ATR-72 to get it registered for an AOC on February 12. It is currently being operated on the Phnom Penh-to-Siem Reap route,” said Soy Sokhan, under-secretary at the Secretariat of Civil Aviation, who oversees CAA matters.

CAA was launched in late July last year. It is a joint venture between the government – which owns 51 percent of the business – and Vietnam Airlines. It forms part of a 30-year agreement that drew an initial investment of $100 million.

Since its launch, it has hired two ATR-72 and an Airbus A-320 from its joint-venture partner. CAA runs five flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, three flights daily between Siem Reap and Saigon, and two flights from Phnom Penh to Saigon per day.

Soy Sokhan said that the new aircraft will eventually be used to replace the hired ones.

“This doesn’t mean we will immediately stop hiring the other aircraft, as we have already set our winter flight schedule,” he added.

Mao Havannall, secretary of state at the SSCA, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

However, Long Chheng, cabinet chief of SSCA, confirmed: “The new ATR is to replace the existing one that CAA hired from their partner.”

He said that if a business buys a plane, it is automatically insured by the source company.

Soy Sokhan declined to tell the Post the source company or price.

The moves within the country’s aviation industry come despite its chequered history. In November 2008, the Kingdom failed an audit by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA). SCAA sources told the Post that the secretariat found 107 breaches of international standards, which led to Siem Reap Airways being blacklisted by the European Commission. The detailed result of ICAA’s latest audit, carried out late last year, is not yet known but shortly afterwards aviation officials said there were still failures in certain areas.

Nevertheless, Soy Sokhan said that CAA plans to buy more aircraft this year.

“We plan to buy one more ATR – this is scheduled for sometime in March – and we also hope to buy some [A-320] Airbuses to replace the hired one later this year,” he said.

Although he did not specify the exact date of importing the Airbuses, CAA hopes they will be used for long-range flights in the future.

“We don’t have the market demand to use them yet. But we plan to start regular flights to Japan, South Korea and China this year.”

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