Saturday, February 11, 2017

Federal Aviation Administration: Tausani Airline certification process slated for this summer, if airline is ready

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking at the summer of this year to start the certification process of Tausani Airline, provided that the locally based start-up carrier is prepared to begin the process, says FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

Two years ago, Tausani leased the ASG nine-passenger seater plane for Manu’a flights. And the airline’s president, Filifa’atali Michael Fuiava told House members early last year that the company’s application to conduct passenger service for the Manu’a island group has been submitted to the FAA and they are now waiting a decision by the FAA.

Last month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga nominated Filifa’atali as Agriculture Department director and he appeared yesterday before the Senate Agriculture Committee for his confirmation hearing, where Manu’a Senate Galeai Tu’ufuli asked for the status of Tausani to operate the territory’s domestic flights.

Filifa’atali responded they are still in contact and in discussions with the FAA, and are now waiting for the federal agency to come down to the territory to inspect the aircraft.

Responding to Samoa News’ request for comments, Gregor said the FAA is working to free up resources to begin the certification process for Tausani Airlines. “We expect to start the process this summer, provided that Tausani is prepared to begin that process,” Gregor said yesterday via email from Los Angeles.

Also during yesterday’s confirmation hearing, Galeai asked about the loan the airline received from the Development Bank of American Samoa, to which Filifa’atali said the approved loan was $400,000, but the airline company has not received all of that money at this point.

Galeai asked for the amount of the loan “advanced” by DBAS to the airline and Filifa’atali replied it was $250,000. (See Monday’s edition of Filifa’atali’s confirmation hearing before the Senate.)

Galeai said DBAS does not have a lot of money and to ‘start up’ businesses is the target of DBAS’ limited financial resources. He pointed out that a lot of DBAS money has gone into the airline, which should move forward with its operations. Additionally, there are still people in the dark about the airline — when it will operate as well as the loaned money.

Galeai was very critical of DBAS loaning money to Tausani when news of the loan first surfaced in 2015. He told reporters at the time that DBAS should make sure the airline has sufficient assets for collateral (Tausani leases the plane from ASG), as well as making sure the loan can be paid back.

During her Senate confirmation hearing last week, Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele was asked about the status of Tausani and she responded that ASG’s aircraft has been leased to the airline and Filifa’atali would be the main source to provide an update.

Asked about the cost of the ASG plane, which was acquired a few years ago during the Togiola Administration, Taimalelagi replied that the estimate is around $1million, and it’s not a new plane. She was then asked by one of the senators about a new plane for Manu’a, and she responded that a similar type of plane, such as the one leased to Tausani, would cost around $6- $7 million.

With no US carrier to operate the territory’s domestic flights, the Samoa government owned Polynesian Airlines has been granted 30-day waivers by the US Transportation Department to fly between Tutuila and the Manu’a island group, since 2014.

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