GUAM’S ASIA PACIFIC AIRLINES LIFTS OFF

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GUAM’S ASIA PACIFIC AIRLINES LIFTS OFF

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (October 18, 2000 - Pacific Daily News/PINA Nius Online)---Thousands of tons of tuna from the Federated States of Micronesia have arrived on Guam just in time for transshipment to Japan. U.S. relief goods reached victims of the last major eruption of the Mayon volcano in the Philippines. A bundle of satellite equipment safely reached its destination on Christmas Island by special air delivery.

Guam-based Asia Pacific Airlines has transported those, and more, said Robert S. Walker, vice president and general manager of the airline.

If you need to move cargo fast and can afford to charter a 727 aircraft, haul your load aboard Asia Pacific Airlines, he said.

For about $7,000 round-trip, you can pack a planeload of -- make sure they're not contraband -- items to fit a 727 jet.

You might not have to pay the roundtrip fare if, for example, Walker said, your cargo's waiting to be picked up in a place that's part of the airline's regular route.

Charter flights make up about 50 percent of the airline's business activity, Walker said.

He said Asia Pacific also makes stops every weekend in Honolulu where it picks up mail and other items for delivery to Majuro; and every mid-week in Hong Kong to pick up fabric for garment factories on Saipan.

The airline plays a major role in the Federated States of Micronesia's tuna fishing industry, Walker said. Asia Pacific flies to the FSM states of Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk and, occasionally, Kosrae.

The airline has flown 2,500 tons of tuna a year from the FSM and has the capacity to transport up to 5,000 tons a year now that the tuna industry is showing signs of picking up, he said.

''Our biggest role is in the economies of smaller islands, as a vehicle to get their goods to market,'' Walker said.

Asia Pacific transports tuna from the Federated States of Micronesia to Guam, where the cargo is transferred to Japan Airlines and Continental Micronesia flights for its final market in Japan.

''Our operating certificate allows us to fly to all islands in the Pacific,'' he said.

By keeping Guam as a hub, the airline has the advantage of close proximity to Asia, which has proved useful, particularly when U.S. aid needs to reach certain Asian countries. Walker said the airline has flown relief missions to Legaspi City in the Philippines and to a flood-damaged area in China.

Guam also has allowed the airline to hire local talent. Three of the airline's nine active pilots and co-pilots are from the Mariana Islands. One full-time mechanic and a part-time mechanic are Guam locals, also, Walker said.

Asia Pacific has been busy since receiving its air carrier certificate in March 1999.

Although Asia Pacific had to implement a rate surcharge because of a 28 percent increase in fuel cost this year, Walker said that surcharge would no longer be needed when fuel prices go down.

''We're hanging in there,'' he said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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