Voyager has completed the first ever Extended Range Twin Operations (ETOPS) flight on the Military Aircraft Register (MAR) by RAF crews.
ZZ337, which joined the FSTA programme as Voyager 07, completed the training flight between RAF Brize Norton and St John’s, Newfoundland on 2nd March. This builds on the air transport ETOPs clearance already received by AirTanker from the Civil Aviation Authority last year.
This permits the aircraft to fly further away from diversion airports, allowing it to plot a more direct course across long-range routes, reducing travel time and fuel consumption.
Dave Mitchard, Managing Director, AirTanker Services, said: “This programme is delivering a huge number of firsts, of which this is the latest. It’s testimony to the capability and reliability of the aircraft but also importantly, the quality of the engineering service that underpins its safe operation.
“We now look forward to assuming an increasingly critical role providing a cutting-edge air transport and air-to-air refuelling capability to the RAF, the UK military and its global partners.”
The arrival of ZZ337 brings the total number of aircraft flying on the MAR to six, (2x two-point tankers and 4x three-point capable tankers).
Since the start of air transport operations in April 2012, these aircraft have together clocked more than 7,200 hours, flying more than 1,940 sectors, carrying more than 125,300 passengers and 8,100 tonnes plus of freight.
This includes the start of flights in and out of Camp Bastion in support of the Afghanistan air-bridge on December 8.
Voyager 02, which flies on the Civilian Aircraft Register, has flown more than 2,700 hours and 490 sectors, carrying over 55,600 passengers and more than 3,400 tonnes of freight, since the start of AirTanker’s civilian airline operation at the beginning of 2013
“This is an important year for Voyager and for the FSTA programme. We will reach a number of important milestones and assume new responsibilities. We very much look forward to continue to work in partnership with the RAF to deliver an increasingly efficient and effective service as well as new operational capabilities”, concluded Mitchard.
In all, 14 aircraft will be delivered to the RAF as part of the Voyager programme. This includes the nine-aircraft core fleet and a five aircraft surge fleet capability, the first of which will be delivered in early 2015.
When not required by the RAF this surge fleet capability is available to AirTanker for release, with its agreement, for other purposes. This could include release to the civil airline market, less its military equipment or to partner nations in a military capacity with the MOD’s agreement.