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DOT tentatively OKs Samoa Air foreign carrier permit

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has tentatively granted Samoa Air’s foreign air carrier application to engage in flights on the inter Samoa route and points beyond the two Samoas, but prior to a final ruling, the federal agency is accepting comments for a period of 21-days.

Samoa Air, which is the trading name for the Apia-based Islander Enterprises Samoa Ltd. filed with the federal government last November an application seeking  “foreign air carrier permit” to engage in scheduled and chartered foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail: from points beyond  Samoa, via Samoa and intermediate points, to any point or points in American Samoa and beyond; and for all-cargo service or services, between American Samoa and any point or points.

The carrier also sought under the same application a “foreign air carrier exemption” under federal law to operate its small aircraft on these same proposed routes. This provision of the application was first granted by the USDOT on Dec. 10 of last year, saying that the exemption is valid until Dec. 10, 2014.  (The airline proposed using its two 9-seater and one three seater aircrafts for its service.)

In granting the exemption, USDOT said “carrier may only use aircraft designed to have a maximum passenger capacity of not more than 60 seats and a maximum payload capacity of not more than 18,000 pounds.”

As for the foreign air carrier permit provision of the application, USDOT said in documents released Tuesday this week that, “We tentatively find and conclude that the public interest warrants granting” the foreign air carrier permit. Additionally, the applicant has demonstrated, based on the record, that it is financially and operationally fit to perform the services authorized; and that it is substantially owned and effectively controlled by citizens of its homeland.

Moreover, on Dec. 7, 2012, the “Federal Aviation Administration advised us that it knew of no reason why we should act unfavorably on the applicant’s request,” said USDOT, who then “directed all interested persons to show cause why our tentative decision” on Samoa Air’s application “should not be made final.”

Any interested person objecting to the issuance of an order making final the tentative findings and conclusions with respect to the applicant’s request for a foreign air carrier permit shall, no later than 21 calendar days from Jan. 8 file with USDOT a statement of objections specifying the part or parts of the tentative findings and conclusions objected to, together with a summary of testimony, statistical data, and concrete evidence to be relied upon in support of the objections.

If timely and properly supported objections are filed, “we will give further consideration to the matters and issues raised by the objections before we take further action; however, in the event no objections are filed, all further procedural steps shall be deemed waived” and USDOT will enter an order which will make final the tentative findings and conclusions.

The final order is, however, subject to provisions of federal law which require such matters to go through a final review and approval of the U.S. President, or his designee.

To file comments electronically, log on to the federal website, and in the search engine, enter the docket number: DOT-OST-2012-0198. A full copy of this tentative order is on the same website.

Former Gov. Togiola Tulafono and locally based Inter Island Airways both supported the Samoa Air application.

Meanwhile, USDOT said it will address Samoa Air’s request for cabotage exemption to operate the territory’s domestic flight as a separate filing at a later time.