Air Marshall Islands Buys Dornier Aircraft In Nepal

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Plane yet to be approved by RMI Civil Aviation

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Dec. 1, 2014) – The Marshall Islands has bought a used Dornier 228 aircraft from an airline in Nepal for $2.1 million.

Transportation and Communications Minister Thomas Heine and Air Marshall Islands officials were in Kathmandu, Nepal earlier last week to sign off on a purchase agreement and accept the Dornier 228-212 aircraft from Tara Airlines on behalf of the government and the government’s national carrier, Air Marshall Islands.

Although the purchase is complete, the plane has yet to complete the review and approval process by the Marshall Islands Directorate of Civil Aviation. Air Marshall Islands General Manager Jefferson Barton said he hoped this would be done by the time the plane is re-painted in Manila next month with Air Marshall Islands livery.

"We are hopeful that all the other necessary requirements prior to being ferried to Marshall Islands after the paint shop will be smooth among the cooperating entities that are tasked to carry out such important functions as mandated by our laws," Barton said.

John Roberts of the British company Airflite helped both Air Marshall Islands and Tara Airlines close the deal, which is valued at $2.1 million, said Barton.

Air Marshall Islands currently operates one Dornier and one Dash-8.

Its scheduled service has been compromised over the past several years by extended groundings of both planes for lack of funds to purchase parts. Its Dornier was grounded for four months earlier this year when the airline could not purchase replacement landing gear in time for a required equipment change.

The Nepal Dornier is 17 years old, five years newer than the one currently operated by the airline, said Barton. "Being from Nepal, which is about 5,000 feet above sea level, and away from a salty environment like the Marshall Islands, our Minister and his team were struck to notice ‘a literally rust- and corrosion-free’ aircraft," Barton said.

With the incoming Dornier, "we expect the air service between Majuro and all the outer islands to improve significantly as there will be two Dorniers servicing the country together as compared to the current situation whereby we have only one and whenever the aircraft is down, it causes a great disruption to the service and hence, great inconveniences to Air Marshall Islands’ customers," Barton said.

The plane is scheduled to depart Kathmandu on December 3 to fly to Manila for painting, which is expected to take up to four weeks.

The plane could be in the Marshall Islands by mid-January, Barton said.

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