South African charter operator Interlink Airlines is planning to launch scheduled services from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park, Durban and Mmabatho (Northern Cape) by mid-November, pending formal approval from the country's aviation regulators.

Chief executive Murad Ismail, a pilot and former aircraft inspector for the South African Civil Aviation Authority, explains that the airline is a black economic empowerment venture with 74% black ownership. All but one of its nine shareholders are South African businessmen or professionals.

Negotiations are under way for the lease of two privately owned 19-seat Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirantes for the gradual phasing-in of two daily services to Nelspruit near Kruger, six frequencies a week to Mmabatho and one daily flight to Durban via Nelspruit. Expansion to Mozambique is planned later.

"We have low overheads, few staff and operate small aircraft which should not be difficult to fill and which we are confident we will be able to use to their maximum capability," says Ismail.

Since 1998, Interlink has conducted VIP charters, cargo flights and specialised flying operations for the South African Government, the South African National Defence Force and the South African Navy.

Its leased charter fleet includes one British Aerospace 748, two Fairchild Metros, two Piper Navajos, one Piper Seneca and one Beechcraft Baron. In addition, two Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopters are based in Swaziland where they conduct search and rescue missions. The company is negotiating the lease of a BAC One-Eleven from a UK airline.

Source: Flight International