A Helvetic Fokker 100 is on its way to Australia to begin a new life flying for local FIFO and charter specialist Alliance Airlines. It is a 15,585-kilometer hop from Bratislava to Brisbane and its new life in the red dust and mulga scrub of outback Australia will be a far cry from its previous life zooming around Southern Europe from Helvetic’s Zurich base.
Helvetic sold its remaining five Fokker 100s to Alliance in July 2019. The five aircraft are being stored by Helvetic and their registrations are HB-JVC, HB-JVE, HB-JVF, HB-JVG, and HB-JVH. Going forward, Helvetic will be operating a standardized Embraer fleet.
Alliance’s deal with Helvetic includes five Fokker 100s and all of Helvetic’s spare parts, tooling and engines. Outside of Fokker, Alliance now has the world’s largest inventory of engines and spare parts.
One of those Fokker 100s, HB-JVG, is now en route to Alliance’s Brisbane base.
The previous lives of HB-JVG
HB-JVG is nearly 26 years old. Helvetic was the second operator of the aircraft. Originally, American Airlines took the plane in October 1993. It was initially registered as N1458H. It flew for American for 20 years, being withdrawn from service in May 2003 and stored for a year.
In September 2004, the plane went to Helvetic where it was registered as HB-JVG. It flew for Helvetic until earlier this year when it was retired and put into storage at Bratislava.
But sturdy old Fokkers refuse to die and this particular plane is off to Alliance Airlines.
The plane left Bratislava yesterday, August 7th, 2019. According to Flight Radar 24, HB-JVG has made it as far as Hurghada in Egypt. The 2,738km flight took just over four hours to complete.
Alliance Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer, Lee Schofield, told Simple Flying that;
“Alliance Airlines looks forward to the arrival of HN-JVG Helvetic’s Fokker 100. Upon arrival we will have the aircraft registered, undertake inspections and investigate options in relation to its utilization within our fleet of aircraft.”
Alliance and its Fokkers
Alliance is the world’s largest operator of Fokkers. The Netherlands based aircraft manufacturer ceased production in 1996 and Alliance has been busy cornering the market in spare parts, engines and tooling. It is doing so both to ensure the longevity of its own Fokker fleet, but also to build up a lucrative side hustle supplying Fokker spare parts to the 20 plus airlines around the world still flying the aircraft.
And the Dutch made aircraft is surprisingly suited to Alliance’s tough operating environment. Lee Schofield told Air Insight in 2017 that Fokker 100s were perfect for Alliance’s needs.
“It (the Fokker 100) is a very reliable aircraft and, technically speaking, is perfectly suited for the type of environment we operate in … We fly to places that are remote, hot and dusty, the Fokker 100 does really well there, with its high mounted engines and high reliability. Here in Australia, it is the backbone of the so-called mining fleet”.
A strategy that makes sense
Fokkers are becoming rarer and as they age, getting spare parts is becoming tougher. But by buying old Fokkers and cannibalizing them for parts, Alliance is able to extend the working life of its existing fleet and reduce its future expenditure by already having a comprehensive spare parts inventory at hand.
It is a clever strategy – buying spares cheaply to prolong the working life of reliable and efficient aircraft. It makes eminent sense and is one reason why Alliance is one of the quiet success stories of Australian aviation.
In 2015, Alliance took 21 Fokkers off Austrian Airlines’ hands in a USD$15 million deal. Some were on-sold, some kept for spares, and some integrated into the existing fleet.
By the end of 2019, Alliance plans to have 44 aircraft flying to mining sites and remote townships around Australia. The fleet will comprise 25 Fokker 100s, 14 Fokker 70s, and five Fokker 50s.
Qantas lurks in the background
Alliance has been in the news lately with Qantas buying a stake in the airline and raising the ire of Australia’s competition czar. Qantas has argued that it isn’t interfering in the management and running of Alliance and, arguably, the Helvetic deal is evidence of that.
But then again, why would it? Alliance’s most recent deal with Helvetic puts the Brisbane based airline in a strong position to expand and take advantage of future opportunities as they arise.
Even the toughest beancounter could see that makes sense.