Cape Air is flying its Tecnam Traveller planes again after a successful review
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Cape Air’s Tecnam P2012 Travellers are carrying passengers once again. The airline had suspended the new props last month while regulators reviewed certain modifications to the planes.
The airline quietly returned the Travellers to select flights from its Boston Logan (BOS), Nashville (BNA) and St. Louis (STL) bases on Wednesday (Sept. 2), according to flight tracking website FlightAware. The flights are understood to be the first with passengers since news broke that Cape Air had voluntarily suspended flights on the planes in mid-August.
Cape Air spokesperson Kelly Collopy confirmed the resumption of revenue Traveller flights on Sept. 2 following a review of certain modifications by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). More Traveller flights, including those to Rutland, Vermont (RUT), will resume on Sept. 4.
Cape Air has bet its future on the Traveller. Long a large operator of Cessna 402s with nine seats, the airline partnered with Tecnam a decade ago to design and build a replacement to fly its short hops in New England and elsewhere across the U.S. and the Caribbean.
The carrier introduced the Traveller on passenger flights in February, several months after deliveries began. The nine-seat props are quieter than the Cessnas and feature a number of passenger-focused amenities, including under-seat storage for carry-on bags, air conditioning and a USB charging outlet.
American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines all partner with Cape Air, including on some Traveller-operated flights. This allows flyers to book tickets — including with miles, in some cases — through their preferred airline as well as directly with Cape Air.
— Edward Russell (@byerussell) February 28, 2020
The suspension of the Travellers followed modifications to the plane’s elevator trim control system by Tecnam, according to the Italian planemaker. Cape Air voluntarily put down the props while EASA and the FAA conducted a joint dialogue and assessment of the changes.
The “action is not related to technical issues or safety,” said Tecnam managing director Giovanni Pascale. “The safety of this aircraft is widely demonstrated by the rest of the P2012 Travellers currently in service… [that] have accumulated hundreds of hours in the most demanding flight-test conditions, far away from the typical airline mission profile.”
It is common for brand new planes to have “teething issues” during their first months — or even years — of service. This occurred with both the Airbus A320neo that faced engine reliability issues and the Boeing 787 after those models were introduced.
When asked about how the introduction of the Traveller was going in June, Cape Air CEO Dan Wolf emphasized that it was a “great airplane for us” and did not note any major issues.
“Launching an airplane in an environment where demand is relatively low is actually a good way to do it,” he said. “As we’re learning about the airplane, we can do it when we’re not carrying very many people.”
Before the pandemic, Cape Air had hoped to replace its fleet of more than 80 Cessnas with Travellers by 2024. In June, it had 11 Travellers in its fleet in June with 20 due by the end of the year.
The pandemic may delay Cape Air’s plans to replace its fleet. The airline, like so many others, has been forced to cut expenses in response to a historic slowdown in travel.
The airline carried 76% fewer flyers on 38% less flights in May compared to the same month a year ago, the latest U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data shows.
— Edward Russell (@byerussell) August 27, 2020
Featured image courtesy of Tecnam.
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