A new airline, Skylink Airways, has been established with the aim of filling the vacuum left by South African Airways (SAA).

AeroTime Hub reported that Skylink Airways was founded by South African entrepreneur Clarence Andrea Steyn.

Steyn told Aero Telegraph he has received backing from Russian and South African investors and has started hiring former SAA staff.

The company is advertising various positions on LinkedIn, including pilots, cabin crew, ground crew, marketing, and administrative personnel.

Skylink Airways is planning to become the first Sukhoi Superjet 100 operator in Africa with bases in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 was designed by Russian aircraft company Sukhoi Civil Aircraft and made its first commercial flight on 21 April 2011.

The new airline will reportedly have close ties with Sukhoi with special headquarters in Moscow.

Skylink Airways is planning to launch operations in September 2022 with routes in South Africa and to neighbouring countries.

While it sounds like an interesting development in the South African aviation industry, very little is known about the company or its founder.

The LinkedIn advertisement for positions at Skylink Airways is unprofessional and there is no publicly available information about the company.

Guy Leitch

Aviation expert Guy Leitch has also raised questions about Skylink Airways’ plans and business model.

Speaking to ENCA, Leitch said the company is flying under the radar and not much is known about their launch plans.

“It is not easy to start a new airline, especially not with the model seen from Skylink Airways,” Leitch said.

Skylink Airways is planning to use a blended model where it owns 5 aircraft and leases 5 other aircraft, including Embraer E190s and Sukhoi Superjet 100s.

Leitch said the Sukhoi Superjet 100 is problematic. “Most airlines around the world have stopped flying them because of a lack of spare parts, maintenance, and factory support.”

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) made its maiden flight on 19 May 2008 and its first commercial flight on 21 April 2011.

By May 2018, 127 of these aircraft were in service. Sales, however, have dropped sharply in recent years.

Sukhoi delivered only three SSJ100s in the first half of 2019 and its financial results show a sevenfold drop in aircraft sales revenue.

Only 12 jets were delivered in 2020 to Rossiya Airlines, Azimuth Airlines, and Red Wings Airlines.

“It has never caught on and is now overtaken by better products from Embraer and Airbus,” he said.

He added that the model proposed by Skylink Airways does not make sense.

“They are talking about stepping into the gap left by SAA, but they are not going to be able to do that with small aircraft like the SSJ100,” Leitch said.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 typically seats 87 to 98 passengers, which Leitch said was not large enough for long haul flights.

He said it is possible that Skylink Airways could plan to be a virtual airline using another airline’s license – like Lift – but initial indications are that this is not the case.

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