A CONTENDER to fill the vacant Narrabri-to-Sydney air service has emerged in the form of a new airline with a storied history.
Sydney-based carrier FlyPelican has expressed its interest in filling the void left by Vincent Aviation and Brindabella Airlines.
The airline is in the early stages of assessing the viability of both the vacant Narrabri and Mudgee government-regulated services.
“I can confirm our interest in providing services to both of those ports,” FlyPelican owner Steve Ferris told The Leader yesterday.
“We’re certainly interested in doing it.
“It makes a lot of sense for us, but there are some commercial realities that need to be met.
“Whatever we do, we’d be doing it for the long run. We’re not interested in coming in and operating for a few months and going broke.”
FlyPelican is a close relative of the now defunct Aeropelican Air Services, which used to fly out of Narrabri to both Sydney and Brisbane.
Mr Ferris bought Aeropelican from Ansett in 2001 and sold it in 2008, with the new owners merging the airline with Brindabella in 2012.
However, Mr Ferris continued to lease four Jetstream 32 turboprop aircraft to Brindabella which he took possession of again when the airline went bust in 2013.
“Throughout that period I did not own the airline. But I have recovered the planes, serviced them and refurbished them,” he said.
Narrabri residents have endured a torturous year, with the failure of Brindabella and its replacement Vincent Aviation.
Passengers, who until recently enjoyed flights to Sydney and Brisbane, have been forced to drive to Moree or even Tamworth to fly.
Mr Ferris said the airline’s 19-seat planes meant it would have a better chance of making the route profitable, compared to Vincent and its 34-seat aircraft.
“It’s always been basically a 19-seat route and, yes, we have the right-sized aeroplane for the job,” he said.
A spokesman for Transport for NSW, which is tasked with appointing airlines to the Narrabri route, said all interested operators were encouraged to come forward.