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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (October 8, 1999 Marshall Islands Journal)---With the aid of Taiwan, the Marshall Islands has set in motion a $28 million deal to purchase two German-made airplanes.

Yesterday, the Republic of China’s Embassy in Majuro turned over a $2 million check to Air Marshall Islands, a contribution that will be used to fund the down payment on two new German Dornier Fairchild 328 airplanes.

ROC Ambassador Leo Fu-tien Liu presented the check to AMI board Vice Chairman Ramsey Reimers and Acting President Justin deBrum in a brief ceremony. It is the latest show of Taiwan funding — the ROC is providing cash worth 14 percent of this year’s national budget — since the two nations established diplomatic ties 11 months ago.

The purchase of two Dornier 328s — twin-engine propeller planes that seat up to 31 passengers and are made by the same company that manufactures smaller Dornier commuter planes now in use for travel to remote outer atolls in the Marshalls — has been under negotiation since earlier this year.

The $2 million is to be used as a down payment on the total $28 million deal, according to AMI General Manager Phil Marshall, who added that the first plane should be in Majuro by mid- to late-December. The second plane is expected next March.

With spare parts, training and other elements in the package, each of the new Dorniers will cost about $14 million. The deal is being financed by a loan through the Berliner Bank in Germany, he said.

"There’s a lot that has to be done between now and when the plane arrives," Marshall said. He said that both pilots and mechanics have to be trained for working on the larger planes.

The Dornier 328s will be used for travelers heading to the scuba dive mecca at Bikini Atoll, as well as for service to Tarawa, Kiribati.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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