The brand new Embraer was delivered to Air Kiribati at Wellcamp in January wearing its Brazilian delivery registration marking of PR-EHT.
It was added to the Australian Aircraft Register in February as VH-IKJ is owned by and registered to the Government of Kiribati, with Sydney-based passenger and cargo airline Pionair Australia as the registered operator. It remained parked at Wellcamp until departing on the test flight described above.
Air Kiribati is the flag carrier of the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) and operates scheduled passenger services to 20 atolls spread over an area of 3.5m sq km.
It is headquartered at Bonriki International Airport on the island of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. The airline operates an international service from Tarawa to Tuvalu. Regional charter flights, medical evacuation and search and rescue services are also undertaken by the airline.
Their fleet currently includes a single Harbin Y-12F, Dash-8-100 (T3-AKA ex-VH-QQA) and DHC-6-300 Twin Otter (P2-KSM).
Kiribati is a small nation that covers an immense geographical area - which is mostly water. The E190-E2 was chosen for its ability to economically connect two important islands, Tarawa in the west and Kiritimati or Christmas Island in the east. Even with the E2 this is more than a 4 hour flight.
Services will commence by mid-2020 eventually connecting Brisbane with Honiara, Nauru, Tarawa, Fiji, Kiritimati, Honolulu and Majuro.
Photos taken by Lloyd Fox and Matt Cotter Photography ©