WESTERN PACIFIC AIRLINE CLOSES IN SOLOMON ISLANDS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 17, 1998 - PACNEWS)---The closure of Western Pacific Airline in the Solomon Islands has been announced by its owner, the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The action was taken by the airline's board last week as a result of the air carrier being unable to sustain itself financially.

In a statement, the President of the Honiara-based Western Pacific Union Mission of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Neil Watts, said the recent devaluation of the Solomon Islands dollar dramatically increased the burden of aircraft lease payments.

Current government regulations, which make it difficult for an airline to increase fares, also was a contributing factor in the close-down decision, he said.

Pastor Neil says the church has decided to withdraw from the airline business altogether and is seeking a smooth transfer of its airline operations to another company.

Western Pacific Airline began operations in the Solomon Islands 12 years ago and has a number of small aircraft in its fleet.

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