Fagalii airport isn’t ready for flights between the two Samoas
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Inter Island airstrip at Fagalii, Samoa is not one hundred percent ready for landings of commercial flights yet following a ceremony to officially re-open for operation earlier this week.
Several issues were cited by Senior and Chief pilots of the two airlines operating out of Fagalii —Talofa Airways and Samoa Airways.
In an exclusive interview with Samoa News, the management of the Talofa Air revealed that it would be costly because of the wear and tear of the aircraft as a result of the current condition of the airport runway. Talofa Airways is opting to wait until July for their flights to operate out of Fagalii.
“The cost is likely high for the company on the wear and tear of the aircraft,” Toleafoa Jeffrey Hunt the owner of Talofa Airways said. “I thought that they are going to redo it, then do it properly, but still the same, but it’s doable, we can operate here, but in terms of maintenance, it’s costing.
“They should use asphalt, (also) they said they’d extend it (runway) but still the wear and tear, the cost of maintenance and there’s need to improve on the sides of the runway.”
Samoa Airways Chief pilot, Maiava Peni when asked about the condition of the new runway shared the similar concerns. “The exposed soil on the sides of the runway should be covered and works on the extension to the eastern side of the field would make a difference with the extra 100 meters. Also trees and Telephone Tower should go down.”
Safety is a priority and the Chief Pilot of Samoa’s government run airline, Samoa Air looks at the banana trees and a telephone tower as hazardous and in the way for landing.
He also pointed out “the high landing of airplanes like today, that’s because they’re avoiding the tall banana trees in the way when landing” from Western end of the runway.
“For safety, the telephone tower needs to be removed, it has to go down.” Adding the tower was erected just after the last closure of the Airport. Maiava, says, this is much better than before “however they didn’t dig out the old runway, they just resurfaced it by putting another layer on top.”
(Samoa News should point out that the Samoa Government in a press release says it spent SAT$2.6 million to re-open the airport, which is part of the current Administration’s roadmap to ‘Pathway for the Development of Samoa 2021- 2026’.)
Samoa Airways operates three twin otters carrying 19 plus one passenger each, while Talofa Air carries 9 plus one and both depend on the weights of passengers and cargo.
Samoa’s Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Olo Afoa Fiti Vaai during the opening ceremony assured that the Fagalii Airport is up to international airport standards.
“In this first phase of rehabilitation of Fagali’i Airport, I can assure you all that it has met all requirements required under the Civil Aviation Rules and Regulations, to ensure the continued safe and efficient operations of the airport.
“For the second phase of this project, one of our key focuses will be to extend the runway. This is essential to guarantee that aircrafts are able to operate to its full-certified capacity.
“Additionally, this expansion will enable us to extend services to other Pacific destinations.
“This is a critical infrastructure for Samoa as this is the key link in Samoa’s connectivity to American Samoa and very soon, to our brothers and sisters in the Pacific region.
“The reopening of Fagali’i Airport is a pivotal step and indication that Samoa can continue to develop and prosper.”
The Minister also acknowledged and commended the support and efforts of Fagali’i Village Council, the Samoa Airport Authority Chairman, Board of Directors, management and staff, as well as the contribution of other Government Ministries and SOEs that were involved in ensuring this day becomes a reality.
“I also wish to recognize Ulia Construction who worked tirelessly to ensure this refurbishment was completed on time and within budget.
“I would also like to especially thank the Government of New Zealand for the gifting of the new X-Ray scanner equipment for Fagali’i Airport, which will assist in further enhancing and securing our borders.
“I am confident that this airport will be a great asset to Samoa and its people and I look forward to seeing it thrive in the years to come. With that said, I, the responsible Minister for Civil Aviation of Samoa, hereby declare Fagalii International Airport open,” Olo said at the time.