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Taiwan provides $1 million aircraft overhaul

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, April 14, 2010) - A US$1 million overhaul in Taiwan will see a Marshall Islands airplane returned to service after three years, action that the airline hopes will stem the multi-million dollar losses it has suffered since 2007.

Air Marshall Islands general manager Bill Capelle said Friday that the national airline’s Dornier-228 aircraft, a 19-seat twin propeller German-made plane, is expected to return to the Marshall Islands by the end of this month.

It has been in Taiwan at an Air Asia maintenance facility for nearly a year undergoing a major overhaul that has been paid for largely with funding from the government of Taiwan, which has had diplomatic ties with the Marshall Islands for 12 years.

The Dornier, one of only two planes owned by the government-run airline in this western Pacific nation, was grounded in August 2007 after experiencing an in-flight engine problem. For seven months in 2007 and 2008, both of the airline’s planes were grounded for various mechanical problems.

It lost US$3 million in 2007 and 2008, Deloitte and Touche audits show.

Taiwan has injected more than US$3 million into the airline since 2008.

To maintain services to remote islands in this country of scattered coral islands, the local airline is leasing an Australia-based Dornier for domestic service and will return it once its own Dornier returns to service.

The last item to be installed next week is additional parts for its GPS (navigation equipment), Capelle said. "Once these are installed and tested, the plane will be ready for ‘rollout,’" he said. Air Marshall Islands will then send two of its pilots to Taiwan to test fly the plane for two days before ferrying it back to Majuro.

"If all goes well, this could happen in the third week of April," Capelle said.

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