Bering Air is upgrading its fleet with eight brand-new airplanes — Cessna Caravans worth about $2.5 million dollars each.
The regional airline — which flies to 32 communities in western Alaska — is replacing older C208B Caravans with the newer EX model, which has features that Bering’s director of operations, David Olson, says will improve safety and speed of travel.
The new planes are equipped with an anti-icing system, which prevents ice from forming and weighing down planes in cold conditions. That means easier handling for pilots and quicker travel for passengers. Olson says the anti-ice capability improves safety “very much.”
The Caravans also come with standard glass cockpits, new GPS technology, and bigger engines. While glass cockpits are not a recent innovation, they are new to the region and the company, according to Bering’s chief pilot, Fen Kinneen.
Paired with a new Garmin navigation system, the cockpits need less on-the-ground equipment and lower minimums for approach requirements like visibility — which Olson says is great for flying to smaller villages and in poor weather. The larger engines add nearly 200 horsepower and also help with taking off in bad weather and on short runways.
According to Olson, the new Caravans mean less maintenance, shorter inspections, and greater reliability. “It’s mostly done for the safety and convenience of the traveling public,” Olson said.
Bering Air already has three of the new planes flying, and the other five are expected by November. The older planes will be sold.