Flying in Taiwan can be a voyage of melancholy. A burst tyre, a whiff of sewage from the landing gear, a balky jet engine.
But the airline industry seems to have found a novel way to cheer passengers up: by giving them nothing in return but the view of the skies.
The first forays into high altitude by Taiwanese airlines still conjure up the image of a creeping helicopter shadow hovering ominously above the homes of the famously poor and bewildered islanders who run it.
But Taiwan’s Elbit Systems-backed new airline, AirSeaExpress, aims to change all that, according to a company statement released on Thursday, in a press conference attended by the airline’s 30 pilots.
The carrier’s new fleet of aircraft, scheduled to be delivered in June and June 2020, will provide flight times up to 8,000ft above sea level, it said.
“The new aircraft’s wingspan will be almost six metres longer than Elbit’s existing fleet, allowing aircraft to fly at a higher altitude,” it added.
Despite AirSeaExpress’s lofty ambitions, its customers are in no way expected to see the scenery as they fly – aside from a video of the flight deck at the start of the journey.
“Each flight will be three hours, 20 minutes long – enough time to catch some of the rarest birds in the world during their night journey to the forest,” the company said.
The project began in 2014 with the assistance of Elbit Systems – whose clients include the US navy and the Saudi Arabian and Spanish navies – as part of the Taiwanese government’s bid to create a high-tech sector amid a rise in the cost of living.
At first, air freight routes would be flown on a single ageing Elbit F111 aeroplane, but the purchase of four F-16s in 2017 has led to the impending rollout of a fully operational fleet of more than 20 aircraft, AirSeaExpress has said.