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By Peter Korugl

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 7) - The Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has grounded Third Level airline Airlink Limited for four weeks.

The CAA and Airlink Ltd yesterday confirmed the grounding of the fleet of seven planes, which came into effect last May 31 following an investigation into company’s air safety operation.

[PIR editor’s note: Airlink, which started operating in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain province In 1990, lost four aircraft and other property in the eruptions of Mount Tavurvur and Vulcan in 1994. The company moved its operations to Madang on PNG’s mainland peninsula where, according to its website, Airlink currently operates 13 aircraft on domestic flights.]

"We were ordered to surrender our air operator’s certificate," Airlink chief executive officer John McMullen told The National from Madang, where the company is based. This surrender of the certificate virtually grounded the airline.

The CEO of CAA Joseph Kintau said the airline voluntarily surrendered its air operator’s certificate because the license had expired on May 31.

He said the license would not be renewed until the airline rectified the problems identified from the investigation.

"There were various air safety conditions the airline had to follow. We want it to ensure that all these conditions are followed," Mr. Kintau said.

CAA ordered the investigation last month following a crash landing of one of its planes in Goroka, Eastern Highlands province and the Bureau of Accident Investigation Unit of the Transport Department carried out the audit, which was completed at the end of last month.

Mr. McMullen said the issues raised were in the engineering, flight and ground operations and the airline already rectified the issues raised from the investigation.

He said all its offices throughout PNG were still operating and the staff was working.

Apart from Madang, Airlink Ltd. serves East Sepik and Sandaun, Morobe, East and West New Britain, Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Southern Highlands and Buka.

The grounding of the airline has affected the traveling public and companies, particularly the newspaper companies that were using its planes to move newspapers to destinations not served by Air Niugini.

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