News Release

Continental Micronesia Hagatna, Guam March 20, 2008

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, March 26, 2008) - In the following letter, dated March 20, 2008, Guam-based Walter B. Dias, Continental Micronesia staff vice president of sales and marketing, responded to this website's coverage of last month's Flight 956 incident in Majuro, Marshall Islands:

This letter is in response to articles posted in Yokwe regarding Continental Micronesia’s statements on Flight 956. Continental Micronesia takes this opportunity to reiterate the facts, which is supported by a March 5, 2008 independent report from the Republic of the Marshall Island’s Directorate of Civil Aviation.

For the past 40 years, we have made it our business to run a clean, reliable, and safe operation for ourselves, our families, and our customers. The departure of Flight 956 from Majuro to Honolulu on Monday evening, February 25, 2008 was no exception. The exception we take, however, is how the event was portrayed in The Marshall Islands Journal, which was posted in this forum.

Contrary to the news reports on The Marshall Islands Journal and The Pacific Magazine online, the facts are the jet engines did not explode nor did they catch fire, and the crew of Flight 956 did not declare an emergency.

Contrary to much that has been reported and opined regarding our handling of the flight and communications to the media about the flight, let me assure you that at no time were the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands nor the passengers on Flight 956 in any danger during the flight. Flight 956 experienced a compressor stall after takeoff, which is not common but is also not unusual. The crew onboard Flight 956 is professionally trained and prepared for scenarios such as a compressor stall.

We understand how customers may have been startled by the loud noise and bright flash resulting from the compressor stall. Like a car backfiring, when a compressor stall occurs there is a burst of fuel burning all at once instead of a steady burn. We are not discounting what people felt they experienced and reported, however the noise and sight of flashing light are accentuated many times over in the darkness of night.

We re-affirm the statements we previously made through news media reports that neither of the aircraft’s jet engines exploded nor caught fire, and that the flight return was not an emergency landing. We elected to take a precautionary step by returning to Majuro to assess the momentary interruption of power to the aircraft. Though the compressor stall self-corrected, our pilots wanted to assess the aircraft on the ground, thereby returning back to Majuro instead of continuing onward to Honolulu. While Flight 956’s air return was not a scheduled arrival, it is standard procedure for any airport, including Majuro’s, to have emergency equipment stand by whenever an aircraft lands or departs, whether the aircraft is on a scheduled operation or not.

Continental Micronesia goes above and beyond to ensure our passengers are safe. We take exception to our service being categorized as "scary." We have invested heavily in new aircraft over the past ten years and have one of the youngest fleets in the industry. We also invested close to a billion dollars in new Boeing aircraft for our Continental Micronesia subsidiary. Continental Micronesia’s on-time performance continues to be well above industry averages, and we continue to serve our customers here in Micronesia with the same world class service you would experience in the U.S. Mainland and European routes. Our passengers in Micronesia receive snacks, meals, beverages, pillows, and blankets at no extra charge. As a result, Continental continues to win numerous awards for our service, including being named, for the fifth year in a row, as the top airline on Fortune magazine’s annual airline industry list of World’s Most Admired Companies. Continental Micronesia thanks the people of The Republic of the Marshall Islands for the opportunity to serve your island nation for the past 40 years. As Micronesia is your home, we call this home too.


Walter B. Dias

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