Aircraft of the week:

Under the registration number HB-AES for former Swiss airline Sky Work Airlines, this Dornier Do-328, of which only 217 were produced, has operated with 7 different airlines across 2 continents and is currently being stored at Bern Belp Airport in Switzerland.

After coming out from the Dornier factory in Oberpfaffenhofen, Bavaria in February 1995, HB-AES was leased to VIF Airways, a small Indian taxi airline based in Begumpet, Hyderabad (the 4th largest city in India with a population of nearly 7 million people and the largest city in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh). The Indian airline industry, for a long time, had been linked with German investment firms and aircraft producers. For example, shortly-lived carrier ModiLuft (1994 to 1996) was a partnership between Indian industrialist SK Modi and Lufthansa and Vayudoot, a regional airline created by the 2 state-owned carriers in India, Air India and Indian Airlines, operated 10 Dornier Do-228s in its fleet. The Dornier Do-228, which is, since 2009, being produced by Swiss aerospace company RUAG in Germany (although many aircraft parts are supplied by Hidustan Aeronautics Limited, a state-owned aircraft manufacturing company), had stopped being produced by Dornier in 1997, and is being operated by the Indian Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. Relations between German aerospace companies and airlines with Indian airlines and investors are still active to this day. This is probably because India needs a market partner capable of providing the country with safe aircraft, as aircraft production and design in India remains of mediocre quality: the Boeing 737 MAX was designed by a computer programmed by Indian sub-contractors. VIF Airways was the first operator in India and Asia of the Dornier Do-328, but ceased operations in 1996. HB-AES was the only aircraft VIF Airways ever operated. HB-AES was returned to Dornier the same year and then sent to Minerva Airlines, a start-up from Reggio di Calabria in Southern Italy, in February 1997. It was Minerva Airlines’ 4th aircraft. During this time, it was sometimes sublet by Minerva Airlines to Air Engiadina, a Swiss airline based in Bern (the Swiss capital) that operated a fleet of entirely Dornier Do-328s. Minerva Airlines operated 10 Dornier Do-328s (of which HB-AES) and 1 ATR 42 before going bankrupt in 2003. In March 1998, HB-AES was leased from Dornier to little-known Russian airline Primair, where the aircraft was sublet to Air Cosmos, a German airline that never launched. The aircraft was returned to Dornier in May, before being directly sublet by Minerva Airlines to Federico II Airways (which operated 2 Dornier Do-328s, 1 Saab 200 and 1 ATR42 in its short history) in Foggia, southeastern Italy, an airline created the same year with a capital of around 10 billion liras (the former currency of Italy, this sum is equivalent to 516’000 € or $617’000). It was named after San Giovanni Rotondo, an Italian town where 20th century Saint Pio of Petrelcina lived. In 2001, a year before Federico II Airways ceased operations, HB-AES was sent to Bern Belp Airport, to the south of the Swiss capital, Bern, where it was maintained before beginning flights with Swiss scheduled carrier SkyWork Airlines in 2004. It was withdrawn from use in 2017 and is still stored at Bern Belp Airport to this day. SkyWork operated a fleet of 6 Saab 2000s, 5 Dornier Do-328s, 3 Dash-8s and 1 Avro RJ100. Sadly, it went bankrupt in late 2018 after 35 years of operations. 1 Dornier was scrapped, and the other 3 are now at a German company called 328 Support Services, that maintains old Dornier Do-328s. HB-AES is now 26 years old, and has had one of the most interesting aircraft histories I have ever seen. Maybe it will fly again… 14th of March 2021.

Our friend, HB-AES.

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