By EDDIE OSIFELO
SOLOMON Airlines Dash 8 known as ‘Magapode’ has made its first inaugural flight to Manaoba airfield in North East Malaita, Friday.
This came after the disputing parties to the airfield signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to open it for commercial flight, on Thursday 19th October 2017.
Prior to the flight, the landowning members representing the four tribes on the Island enjoyed a pre-flight celebration.
Those joining the celebrations were Attorney General, James Apaniai, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Moses Virivolomo, Chairman of Solomon Airlines Board, Austin Holmes, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Solomon Airlines, Brett Gebers, Member of Parliament for North Malaita, Jimmy Lusibaea, the Airlines staff and some passengers.
PS Virivolomo told the landowning tribes to allow flights continue to the Manaoba airfield because it comes with alot of economic opportunities for the people and tourism development as well.
He said as time goes on, you should establish rest houses, food bars and accommodations for the visitors.
Furthermore, Virivolomo said the Ministry’s next move is to open the Lomlom airport in Temotu province.
Solomon Airlines had scheduled flights to Manaoba airfield every Mondays and Fridays.
Manager Commercial, Collin Sigimanu said for the first four services starting yesterday, Airlines Company offers special fare of $335 one way.
Mr Sigimanu said normal fare to Manaoba is $1175 one way.
He said Dash 8 will service the four services and after twin outer will continue from there.
“Currently we target the markets in Manaoba with flight on Friday afternoon and Monday morning,” he said.
Mr Sigimanu said Manaoba potentially should be a busy port for airlines.
“Solomon Airlines is quite excited to go into Manaoba because we expect the volume of travellers to be high.
“It’s a profitable domestic route,” he added.
Mr Sigimanu said if demand increases, Airlines will slot in some flights on Wednesdays or other days.
After the short pre-flight celebration with food and drinks at Honiara Domestic lounge, the landowners representatives, Apiniai, Virivolomo, Homles, Lusibaea and Airlines staffs boarded the Dash 8 and departed to Manaoba airfield after 1pm.
The delegation got to see the run way, terminal and met with people on the island.
After 2pm, the delegation returned on the same flight, to Honiara.
The Manaoba airfield was completed in 2015 through Lion Heart Construction Company.
However, there was no flight due to a dispute until the landowning tribes came together last year to sign the MOA.
The parties have decided to come together, to open the airfield for flights.
Solomon Islands Government, AG Apaniai and his staff, former Commissioner of Lands, Nelson Naoapu and the Ministry of Aviation and Communication Task Force played an instrumental role behind the opening of the airfield.