On Wednesday November 8, 2017, the Board, Management, and Staff of Cayman Airways Limited (CAL), bid farewell to one of their four Boeing 737-300 aircraft, registration marked VP-CKY.
The122-seat aircraft’s farewell flight was flown by Captain Perry Panton and Captain Steven Coe to the Goodyear maintenance facility in Phoenix, Arizona where Cayman Airways’ lease will terminate and the aircraft will be retired from service by its leasing company. Cayman Airways originally leased this aircraft in October 2003 from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), and the aircraft is currently owned by AerCap leasing corporation.
As part of the farewell send-off, Cayman Airways employees, as well as invited aviation partners, got the unique opportunity to write a farewell message and sign their names on the nose of the aircraft. The Cayman Islands Fire Service did an honourary water-cannon salute as the aircraft entered the tarmac at Owen Roberts International Airport for the last time, and after take-off, Captain Panton circled the aircraft back around for an approved fly-by, to the cheers of all those in attendance.
VP-CKY is the first of Cayman Airways’ four Boeing 737-300 aircraft to be retired as part of the airline’s Fleet Modernisation Plan, which will see all of its B737-300s replaced by brand new and customized Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft by 2020.
“Interestingly, the delivery of VP-CKY in 2003 to Cayman Airways represented the first step in the airline’s fleet modernisation at that time,” noted Cayman Airways President and CEO, Fabian Whorms. “This aircraft was actually the very first in our transition from the 737-200 series to the newer 737-300 series, and it was the aircraft that our new livery was first introduced on in 2008.”
Mr. Whorms said CAL’s current Fleet Modernization Plan accounted for this planned retirement of VP-CKY at this time, with the Boeing 737-800 aircraft (registration VP-CNG) being introduced as its replacement from December 2016 to allow sufficient time to ensure the proper integration of the 737-800 aircraft. “At this point, the 737-800 introduction program is complete in all respects, and the 737-800 aircraft will remain in the fleet as a ‘bridge aircraft’ until December 2018 when it will be replaced by the airline’s first, state of the art, Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft,” Mr. Whorms explained. “Over the next few years, the three remaining 737-300 aircraft in the current fleet will be retired and replaced by three 737-8 Max aircraft between 2019 and 2020.”
Mr. Whorms, who played an integral role in the acquisition and introduction of VP-CKY to the fleet as he was the Vice President in charge of Maintenance and Engineering at the time, said that “Kilo Yankee” as this aircraft is affectionately referred to, has been the workhorse of the Cayman Airways fleet since its acquisition.
“This aircraft has consistently been one of our most reliable aircraft, and has accomplished 18,884 flights for Cayman Airways out of a total of 33,752 flights in its lifetime,” he said. “It has also flown 57,654 hours since new, of which, 21,474 were flown at Cayman Airways”.
Mr. Whorms added that this aircraft has transported approximately 1.5 million passengers for Cayman Airways to, from, and within the Cayman Islands. “That is a tremendous contribution and accomplishment, not only for our airline, but for our country,” he said. “Throughout its 25-year lifetime, this aircraft has transported approximately 3 million passengers, having also flown about 1.5 million passengers for its two previous operators.”
The first operator of the aircraft was Polynesian Airlines, under registration mark 5W-ILF. They operated it until 2001 when Quantas airlines began operating it in Australia under registration mark VH-TAB until 2003. The aircraft was then delivered to Cayman Airways in November 2003 and has been in operation with the national airline until this time.
The aircraft operated its last commercial flight for Cayman Airways on Sunday November 5, 2017, as flight number KX833 from Havana to Grand Cayman.