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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 4) – American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono has signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, called the Other Transaction Agreement, in order to use close to US$2 million from the federal government to build an air traffic control tower for the Tafuna airport.

[PIR editor’s note: Tafuna is a village located approximately a mile north of the of Pago Pago International Airport, on the east coast of Tutuila island in American Samoa.]

The deadline for signing the Other Transaction Agreement was Sept. 30 but Congressman Faleomavaega requested and the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to extend the deadline to Oct. 2. Both parties - American Samoa Government and Federal Aviation Administration - have been working on the details of the final agreement since late last week.

Without the agreement, American Samoa would have lost the close to US$2 million set-aside.

Yesterday morning Congressman Faleomavaega Eni was informed by Deborah Johnson, Director of Terminal Planning in the Federal Aviation Administration's Washington office about the status of the Other Transaction Agreement.

Johnson said the governor reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's last draft and the governor has agreed to sign the Other Transaction Agreement "as we presented it" and the parties have now come to an agreement on the final document.

"The Federal Aviation Administration contracting officer will e-mail American Samoa Government a 'clean' word document based on the final draft," she said. "American Samoa Government will, in turn, sign and return via FedEx three originals for the Federal Aviation Administration contracting officer's signature."

A copy of the signed document will be forwarded to the Congressman's office.

Togiola said in a statement yesterday that the Federal Aviation Administration, through the Other Transaction Agreement executed on Monday will give American Samoa US$1.984 million for the design, siting, engineering and construction of a non-federal control tower.

Also funded through Other Transaction Agreement will be equipment and installation of tower instruments and training and development for personnel that will man the tower. American Samoa Government will be responsible for all of these costs, utilizing the funds from Federal Aviation Administration.

Togiola said the Federal Aviation Administration has agreed to provide maintenance for a nominal charge and this will apply to all tower instruments, and it has an estimated cost of US$50,000.

The Federal Aviation Administration had agreed to send down a team from Hawaii to conduct training for air traffic controllers as well as provide a local Federal Aviation Administration staff to conduct maintenance. Togiola had fought for these provisions to be included in the Other Transaction Agreement, which was relayed last week to the Federal Aviation Administration through Faleomavaega.

"I am very thankful to Federal Aviation Administration, through the assistance of our Congressman, for their assistance in extending maintenance service to American Samoa," said the governor. "Through this savings, American Samoa Government hopes to free up that specific maintenance money to help with other portions of the tower project."

Togiola said the Federal Aviation Administration has to conduct a benefit/cost analysis immediately after the construction and equipping of the tower, in order to determine whether Pago Pago International Airport qualifies for resumption of Federal Aviation Administration tower services.

"It was imperative for us to include a benefit-to-cost analysis in the Other Transaction Agreement," said Togiola. "As of right now, Federal Aviation Administration will not provide services because it is not cost beneficial. However, if the numbers of travelers and flights go up during the period of construction, enough to change the B/C ratio, then we will immediately move the Federal Aviation Administration to resume their services to Pago Pago International Airport."

Togiola said it has been American Samoa Government's position from the very beginning that Federal Aviation Administration should be responsible for the air traffic that comes into the Tafuna airport.

"As soon as the flight touches down on the runway, we bear the responsibility. The Other Transaction Agreement presents a major change to this dynamic," he said. "However, we are hopeful that with the fruition of our economic development initiatives that are being pursued and implemented, and other positive developments in our private sector and government, American Samoa's air traffic will meet, within the next few years, the minimum balance that would require Federal Aviation Administration to resume their services, as provided in the past."

Togiola said American Samoa Government is very thankful that the agreement has been reached and he appreciates the efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration, especially Robert Valdes, Kevin Stewart, Ms. Deborah Johnson and Bill Withycombe (Federal Aviation Administration's regional director) as well as the assistance by Faleomavaega.

"I look forward to working with Federal Aviation Administration to carry out the objects of the Other Transaction Agreement and for making American Samoa's air traffic safer for American Samoa and our residents," he said.

Faleomavaega also expressed his appreciation to the Federal Aviation Administration, especially Withycombe and his colleagues in the field for making this happen.

"I am pleased to have been able to assist Governor Togiola in negotiating this agreement, and I commend him for working to resolve whatever final issues he deemed to be necessary prior to signing," he said. "Ultimately, this is the right outcome for our people who deserve a fully operational airport that places their safety first."

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