Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith that while externally similar in appearance to the older aircraft, the 340B Plus had more powerful engines, carried more payload, and had an active noise control system that significantly improved passenger comfort.
The outgoing Saab 340A entered service in 2000 and has provided the backbone of the airline's schedule between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, carrying more than a million inter-island passengers in that time. The 34-seat aircraft provides scheduled services between Rarotonga and Aitutaki up to five times a day.
Smith paid tribute to the 340A, saying it had been in operation for almost 20 years.
“We are in our 40th year of inter-island service and our 340A has been in operation with us almost half of that time.
“It has been a reliable workhorse operating the Aitutaki schedule with an accuracy you could almost set your watch by. We expect similar performance from the new aircraft.”
The Saab 340B Plus is now in the US undergoing heavy maintenance and a strip and new paint before it is delivered to Air Rarotonga.
The new Saab is the second major investment by the airline in recent times. In January last year Air Rarotonga also took delivery of a Cessna Citation jet, now being used for charter flights in the Pacific region.
The aircraft is equipped for landing on coral runways and also capable of making medical evacuation flights to New Zealand.