Israel Aircraft Industries 1125 Astra VH-FIS

Owned by Airservices Australia and painted in Airservices' markings, Israel Aircraft Industries 1125 Astra VH-FIS (Flight Inspection Service - c/n 045) was the first of its type in Australia.

By the early 1990s Airservices Australia's two remaining Fokker F28 flight calibration aircraft were reaching the end of their economic lives (although having accumulated relatively low flying hours). At the same time it was decided to put the operation of the replacement aircraft out to tender. The contract was won by Skywest who, because of their experience with the earlier IAI Westwind, suggested a combination of IAI Astra and Beech Super King Air. It was felt that at least one jet was needed because of the large distances to be covered in Australia however advances in technology meant that the size and weight of the new flight survey equipment was very much reduced.

As a result, Airservices purchased this aircraft and a King Air (VH-FIX). Airways Survey equipment AD-FIS-8 was fitted in Braunschweig, Germany, in 1997 by Aerodata GmbH prior to the delivery of the aircraft to Australia. At about this time also Skywest were bought out by Pearl Aviation, who assumed the contract for flight calibration.

The aircraft was ferried to Australia by Pearl Aviation crew Capt Bruce Perey, Philip Broad & engineer Colin Gibbs. They departed Germany on 12 August 1997 and routed via Turkey, Pakistan, Maldives, Cocos Is, Port Hedland and Brisbane, arriving on 16 August. The photogaph above shows the aircraft shortly after arrival. The aircraft was subsequently handed over to Pearl Aviation on 22 August 1997 and operated by Pearl on contract to Airservices Australia for airways survey duties. It replaced Airservices' sole remaining Fokker 28, VH-ATG, the last aircraft operated by 'the Department' in its own right.

The first operational use of the new aircraft occurred on 17 September 1997 when the Oakey, Qld, VOR was calibrated.

The photo below shows VH-FIS at Melbourne/Tullamarine on 22 June 2000.


At a later date Aerodata, the suppliers of the survey equipment, purchased half the flight survey contract from Pearl Aviation and thus formed the joint company AeroPearl to operate Airservices' Astra and King Air.

VH-FIS proved reliable in service, however as the only aircraft of its type in Australia at that time maintenance, particularly the supply of spares, was a problem. As a result the aircraft was cancelled from the Register on 31 July 2002 following sale in the USA. It was registered N880CH on 20 August to Cloud Nine Aviation, Los Angeles.

(Photos: Top-CAHS collection; Bottom-Ken Watson)

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