Sky Angkor Airlines has abandoned a plan to lease two Russian Sukhoi aircraft after the deal proved “problematic,” and will instead look to use more conventional Airbus commercial jets to support its route expansion plans, a company executive said yesterday.
The Korean-Cambodian airline had announced in August 2015 a deal with Russian aircraft leasing firm Ilyushin Finance to wet-lease two Sukhoi SuperJet 110 aircraft from Russian airline Red Wings. However, the delivery date was repeatedly pushed back on technical and regulatory issues.
Lee Moon Seop, general manager of Sky Angkor Air, said the deal was abandoned altogether because both the airline and Cambodian aviation officials were unfamiliar with the twin-engine Russian aircraft, presenting an array of operating and regulatory challenges.
“We abandoned the deal to lease the two aircraft from Sukhoi . . . because there were many problems we would have to deal with, such as [specialised training for] pilots, cabin crews, engineers, maintenance procedures and so on,” he said. “Our systems and organisation are based only on the A320 series, and we found that we could not handle or afford the [additional] expenses.”
Sky Angkor’s current fleet comprises five A320s and one A321. The airline operates domestic flights and serves destinations in China and South Korea from its Siem Reap hub and Sihanoukville’s airport.
The company had originally announced that the addition of the two Russian-built aircraft would increase the efficiency of its operations, with the smaller Sukhoi jets used for short-haul flights while its larger A320-series aircraft would serve destinations in Mainland China and South Korea.
Lee confirmed that Sky Angkor was still looking to expand its routes, but has deemed it more cost effective to stick with a single family of aircraft. He explained that pilots and maintenance crews must receive training and licenses for each aircraft model, and in some cases cannot be licensed for more than one model simultaneously.
He said the airline was still considering placing an order for two more aircraft to serve its growing list of destinations, especially in China.
“We intend to order two more aircraft for future destinations to China,” he said.
The fleet expansion would also allow the airline to open new routes currently under consideration to Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and India, he added.
Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said the national aviation regulator was unfamiliar with Sukhoi aircraft, and the licensing of any new make or model would first require the interested party to arrange the training of SSCA staff on the aircraft’s operating and maintenance requirements.
He noted that Cambodia’s aviation sector was largely based on Boeing and Airbus aircraft, which pilots and engineers possessed considerable skill and experience.
“It’s a good idea for airlines to bring in new airplanes based on our technical skills and experience, in which case the airline would not have to spend time and money training our technicians on the new type of aircraft,” he said.