Embraer E2s for the Pacific with Air Kiribati
Here’s an aircraft order announcement that caught my attention, because it almost reads like geography trivia.
The flag carrier of the tiny (by population) Pacific island nation of Kiribati has ordered 4 Embraer E-190 E2 jets (two firm orders and two options to be more exact).
Although not an expert in the economy of the Pacific islands, the $243M contract (if options are fully exercised) sound like a big undertaking for a country of 110,000 and a GDP of just $196M.
Aviation is essential in that part of the World (with tourism accounting, directly and indirectly, for nearly a quarter of Kiribati’s GDP) and this order means a massive improvement of Air Kiribati’s capabilities over the 6 small turboprops currently on its fleet (1 Bombardier Dash8 Q100, 2 DHC-6 Twin Otters and 3 Chinese-built Y-12s).
Kiribati may be one of the smallest countries on Earth based on population and land, but its 32 atolls are spread over a huuuuge area. Actually it has the second largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the Pacific (after French Polynesia), 3,550,000km2 (about half the size of Australia, for reference).
So, flying domestically is a bit like jumping from a tiny speck of sand to another in the immensity of the ocean. In fact Embraer’s press release mentions the flight from Tarawa (a name that will resound with WW2 buffs) and Kiritimati, on Christmas Island (the largest coral atoll by land anywhere in the World), as particularly challenging (any pilot here that can explain why?)
And it seems that the performance and range of the Embraer E2 jet are well suited for the task (check out our report of the very first E2 delivery flight earlier this year).
Actually, the flight between Tarawa and Kiritimati has the peculiarity that, although it is domestic, it currently involves an international stopover in Fiji. With the Embraer E2s this is no longer going to be necessary.
Last but not least, a couple more geographical curiosities for those that get lucky enough to fly on Air Kiribati’s new Embraer E2s in the near future: Kiribati is the only country in the World to have its territory spread over the 4 hemispheres and, until it reorganized its time zones in 1995, it happened to be spread over two days too! since the international dateline was running through the middle of the country!