PALAU CHEERS ARRIVAL OF COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT

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By Agnes M. Abrau

KOROR (Palau Horizon, July 14) — Amid a cheering crowd, the Boeing 737 aircraft of Palau Micronesia Air finally landed at the Palau International Airport Sunday afternoon.

The airline, hailed by locals as a dream come true, will have its inaugural flight on Aug. 5 to Darwin, Australia. Other flights planned are to Manila, Darwin (Australia), Yap, Chuuk and Pohnpei.

The arrival of the aircraft was welcomed by the Palauan community who trooped to the airport as soon as news of its arrival was confirmed.

Its arrival, along with the carrier’s inaugural flight, has been postponed several times.

Alan Seid, Palau Air’s president, said the concept of an airline in Palau and Micronesia started four years ago with Aloha Airlines of Hawaii saying the project was feasible. A consultancy firm from Canada also said the proximity of Palau to growing economies of Asia and Micronesia would make the concept workable.

In his address, Seid thanked the Remengesau administration, Japan Airlines "(which) played a critical role in the growth of the project," Philippine Airlines "for helping facilitate documents," the leadership of Yap State and Pohnpei the Airworks Holdings Ltd., among others.

"Not everything has been smooth," Seid told the crowd, composed of the country’s officials, businessmen, traditional leaders and members of the community, but added that the airline is fully insured up to $500 million under international laws.

In March, the sale of the carrier’s shares was halted when it was discovered it still had to comply with share offering requirements of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also, while Seid had been heralding the carrier’s partnership with the Manila-based PAL in March, Variety discovered that no such agreement between the carriers had actually been signed.

The arrival of the aircraft was also witnessed by members of the New Zealand Civil Air Aviation Authority who flew in from New Zealand with the aircraft.

Seid told the audience that Palau Air is an "island airline" with a promise of professionalism. The airline has a crew of 75 employees, who served guests with refreshments at yesterday’s arrival ceremony. The employees were composed of ground crew, airline crew and in-flight crew.

Seid also said Palau Air will acquire its second aircraft in September, and will expand its flights to Guam.

"Six months from today we will fly direct to Tokyo and Nagoya," Seid told the public.

The ceremony, which included a chant of blessing by Rurcherudel Iyechad Yaoch, also featured special song numbers from different groups as well as remarks by president Remengesau; and Greg Barrow, chief executive officer of Airworks. Paramount chief Reklai Raphael Ngirmang also offered a congratulatory toast and remarks to the airline.

Paramount chief Ibedul Yutaka Gibbbons acknowledged the efforts of a few individuals which helped establish the airline – "...only because of a vision and hard work of few people such as Kuniwo Nakamura, Surangel Whipps Sr., Alan Seid, Sam Masang and their respective families."

July 15, 2004

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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