Not all the big order announcements at this year’s Paris Air Show came from the big OEMs, as Viking Air illustrated by announcing the two significant sales: Four Twin Otter Series 400s to Aerostar Leasing; and an additional seven to Russia’s Vityaz Avia.
Aerostar Leasing is buying the Twin Otters for customers to operate commercially in Asia and will take delivery of its four aircraft in 2015. “We are pleased to welcome another customer to the growing Twin Otter Series 400 family,” said Viking Air president and CEO David Curtis, “and trust Aerostar Leasing will be as satisfied with their new aircraft as our repeat customers are.”
Vityaz Avia, based in Moscow, is one of those repeat customers, having earlier ordered four Twin Otters, making it the largest non-military customer for the utility twin-turboprop. Vityaz’s next seven Twin Otters are scheduled for delivery through 2015, with the first to be taken before the MAKS 2013 air show in Moscow in August. Vityaz flies the Twin Otters to support communities in remote regions in northern Russia, according to Viking Air. At the MAKS show in Moscow this August, the Twin Otter will be on display for the first time in Russia.
At the Paris show, Viking Air (Hall 3 D60) also announced that it had delivered the final Twin Otter Series 400 to the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team–part of a three-aircraft order. A handover ceremony will be held this week in Murietta, California. The Golden Knights Twin Otters are equipped with additional features to facilitate jump operations, including air-operable roll-up door, external jump step and handholds, wall-mounted bench seating and crew relief station, with a gross weight increase allowance to 14,000 pounds (for the military variant).
The U.S. Army took delivery of its first Twin Otter Series 400 in September 2012 and was the first U.S. operator of the updated version of the venerable twin. The Series 400 received FAA certification in June 2012. “The U.S. Army has been a dedicated Twin Otter Series 400 customer from the outset of the program,” said Dan Tharp, Viking Air executive v-p in charge of operations. It was “an initial launch customer and [worked] with Viking as an integral member of the Series 400 steering committee,” said Tharp.
Pilots from Vietnam’s navy are nearing completion of their flight-training program in Canada. The pilots have been studying for the past 20 months, and the courses covered English language, flight and technical training, including 500 flight hours and landings on paved and soft-field runways and on the water using amphibious floats installed on the navy’s Guardian 400 Twin Otters. Vietnam navy technicians spent six weeks learning how to maintain the Twin Otter, and will be supported by Viking Twin Otter and field service representatives based in Vietnam. Graduation from the training program, which was conducted by Viking sister company Pacific Sky Aviation, will take place in July.
“A significant amount of Twin Otter training focused on seaplane operations,” said Pacific Sky CEO Michael Coughlin, “with the students completing over 2,100 landings on lakes and the rugged coastline of British Columbia. This will be instrumental to their success in operating the aircraft for maritime patrol operations in Vietnam.”
According to Viking Air, the Vietnam purchase of Twin Otters is the first western-manufactured aircraft purchased by Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense and also the first-ever fixed-wing aircraft placed into service by the Vietnamese navy, which has ordered six of the aircraft for transport, resupply, maritime surveillance and search-and-rescue operations.