Air Niugini is poised to sign an order for two Bombardier Q400s and use these on domestic and possibly international routes.
The Papua New Guinean national carrier has publicly announced that it plans to buy two new Q400s and a source at the carrier says they hope to sign the contract in the coming days.
The plan is order from Bombardier two new Q400s with one to be delivered in the second quarter of 2010 and the other in the third quarter of 2010, says the source, adding that the contract will also include an option for at least one more Q400.
Air Niugini already operates Bombardier turboprops but it operates the older models and generally buys second-hand aircraft.
It had been looking to buy two ex-Malev Hungarian Airlines Fokker 70s but the source says it will no longer be adding Fokker 70s now that it has Q400s coming in.
The carrier chose the Q400 over the Fokker 70 because it can land and take-off from shorter runways, an important consideration in Papua New Guinea where many of the domestic routes have short runways, says the source.
The aircraft also performs well in terrain thousands of feet above sea-level, adds the source. Papua New Guinea is some of the most mountainous terrain in the world.
"We also looked at second-hand Q400s and decided new aircraft had benefits for us," says the source, adding that "we looked at various financing options and everybody agreed to go with new aircraft."
Air Niugini is the national carrier so it has the support of the government, says the source.
In terms of availability of second-hand Q400s, the source says: "the Q400 used market is not so good" and those that are available tend to be older ones.
Supporting the Q400 out in the field is the main concern Air Niugini has but it hopes to draw on the spare parts support that is available in Australia. QantasLink operates a large number of Q400s in Australia.
Air Niugini might operate the Q400 on the Port Moresby-Cairns route to Australia, says the source.
Because the Q400 is fast and fuel efficient it even has the capability to operate on the Port Moresby-Brisbane route, adds the source.