Taiwan may authorise single-engine instrument flight rules (SEIFR) commercial operations to a group of outer islands that could otherwise lose their only air links to the main island. Currently, even general aviation (GA) single engine operations are banned in Taiwan, which means the Czech-Taiwanese Ibis Aerospace Ae270 single turboprop aircraft - technically suitable for the potential islands services - does not have a home market.
Local operators and single-engine turboprop manufacturers are pressing Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) to make commercial SEIFR legal. Europe's JAA is in the final stages of drafting rules that would allow SEIFR, although Australia already permits it, as does North America, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
If the CAA allows it, manufacturers anticipate sales of four to eight Cessna Caravans, Ibis Aerospace Ae270s or Pilatus PC-12s.
Some helicopter operators may expand into fixed-wing single-engine aircraft if they can win government contracts to serve the islands of Chimei, Green, Orchid and Wangan. These are now served by Mandarin Airlines' and Uni Airways' Dornier 228s but they will not renew their subsidised, but unprofitable, outer-island contracts when they expire in October, forcing the government to seek alternatives. Two local Britten Norman Islander-operators may also bid.
The CAA is reviewing the safety record of Asia-Pacific SEIFR operators and a decision on whether to permit commercial SEIFR is expected within the next two months, giving potential operators enough time to bid for government contracts and order aircraft before October.
Ibis needs the CAA to lift its existing ban on all single-engine aircraft so the Ae270 can be sold in its home market but delivery slots are not available until late 2005, which could be too late for the potential offshore island links.
BRENDAN SOBIE / SINGAPORE
Source: Flight International