When many cargo aviators think of hauling through the skies, they often immediately think the CESSNA CARAVAN turboprop. For one on-demand cargo company based out of Hawaii, it was the aircraft that changed everything.
"We didn't think the Caravan was going to be as popular as it was," said James Petrides, president of Kamaka Air. "We thought it would just supplement the Beechcraft 18's and our Super DC3 fleet. But every time we went to load an aircraft, it was always the Caravan."
Petrides runs Kamaka Air with Vice President and Director of Operations John Gravener, and once the two saw how beneficial the Caravan turboprops were for their company, their focus never strayed.
"The maintenance requirements went way down, and the reliability was through the roof. We also have the fuel savings of the jet fuel versus the avgas. It was substantial," Gravener said. Kamaka Air Director of Training Jon Ashment added, "Everybody was fighting for the Caravans. It's a great fit being such a proven model. The majority of the new pilots today are learning on G1000's and for new pilots coming in, it flows."
But as the company grew, Kamaka Air's leaders realized they may need something else to supplement the fleet. The company is based out of Honolulu and services the entire state with emphasis on the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Maui.
Kamaka Air has contracts with the United States Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and other smaller companies that rely on air cargo service. In addition, community-focused efforts of the company consist of transporting cats, dogs, chinchillas and even dolphins going to rescue centers. Kamaka also routinely ships for free donated educational materials, food supplies, toys, and sports gear, to name a few. Petrides said the Caravan aircraft is great for all the company’s needs, but occasionally there are certain inefficiencies about the way they utilize the aircraft.
"We routinely get big, odd-shaped items or big crates which we have to disassemble for the customer and repack to fit in the Caravan. We'll dispatch two Caravans to the same place and same time because of the load and/or volume,” Petrides said. “We needed something that could carry more and the SkyCourier solves this problem. It will take twice the load and its massive door will alleviate the need for repacking our customers large items."
"We've been looking at different airplanes to fill that niche. It's like you guys were listening to us with the SkyCourier."James Petrides, Kamaka Air President
Although the cargo door and payload were impressive selling points, there were other factors that made the choice even easier.
"The SkyCourier has G1000 avionics, and we have G1000 pilots. An on-site visit to Wichita, Kansas to personally inspect the aircraft confirmed our expectations on the usefulness of this aircraft to our operation. The increased load and volume of the SkyCourier, combined with the integrated roller system, will open up new markets and will further company growth and expansion." Gravener said.
"Our maintenance guys know the Cessna products and are factory-trained by Pratt and Whitney. It was a no brainer." Petrides added. "We're very excited to get the SkyCourier on property and start utilizing it to its fullest potential."