AIR SERVICE ON UPSWING IN NEIGHBORING SAMOAS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 2) - American Samoa's airline industry continues to improve, as Inter Island Airways adds a third aircraft to its current fleet, while South Pacific Express (SPEX) will launch flights this morning between Pago Pago and Faleolo International Airport in Samoa.

SPEX joins Inter Island and Polynesian Airlines operating flights between Tutuila and Upolu. Inter Island also operates daily flights to and from Manu'a.

Inter Island's new plane, the second Dornier 228, which is a 19-passenger seater, arrived Wednesday afternoon, already bearing the carrier's name on the side. The plane was bought by Inter Island from Air Tahiti, who is selling their Dornier planes due to their change in aircraft fleet.

The aircraft left the French Polynesia capital of Papeete early Wednesday for the seven-hour flight to Pago Pago, with a refueling stop in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

Only a few airline and airport officials were on hand to check the aircraft upon arrival. The aircraft will now undergo air-worthiness certification by the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA].

As part of the certification process, the carrier is required under federal law to install - in the aircraft's cockpit - an FAA approved Terrain Awareness and Warning System, unless a temporary exemption is granted by the FAA. Off-island personnel will be here over this weekend to start work on the Warning System.

The Warning System is an enhancement of the Ground Proximity Warning System, which the Dornier currently has.

The new Dornier plane will be used for the inter-Samoa route, and the carrier is exploring the possibility of expanding service to nearby countries.

SPEX's inaugural commercial flight is set to take off from Tafuna airport around 8 a.m. today, following a short blessing ceremony at 7 a.m., which Governor Togiola has been invited to attend. After the blessing, a tour of the aircraft will follow.

An airline official said that since SPEX's public announcement of starting up flights and the opening of its office at the airport on Monday, many passengers have been booking flights. The passenger count for today was unknown as of yesterday afternoon.

With three airlines now operating, there shouldn't be a problem with inter-Samoa travel during the holiday season, one of the busiest times for air travel, traditionally.

December 7, 2005

The Samoa News: http://www.samoanews.com/

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