Air safety concerns
THERE’S increasing air safety concerns with the Solomon Airline’s domestic fleet.
This came after at least two recent air incidents and latest revelations that Solomon Airlines is using written-off Twin Otter aircrafts, which it purchased from overseas and refurbished them here.
News of the purchase of written off aircrafts is well-guarded information, but inside sources have confirmed this to be true.
“One of the Twin-Otters was the one that crashed in the waters of Seychelles, in the Caribbean some years ago,” a source said.
“Solomon Airlines purchased this written-off plane and paid for the freight cost to have it shipped here,” the source added.
“It lied idle for many months before the company’s engineers started working to refurbish it.
“But when the management found it would cost so much to refurbish the aircraft, it decided to sell it to an Australian.
“The plane has been refurbished by its Australian owner, and is now ready to fly.
“However, the latest we got is the management is planning to purchase the fuselages of this aircraft to fit it into another Solomon Airlines Twin Otter(H4-SID) currently grounded at Henderson.
“H4-SID fuselage is currently expired and needs to be sent overseas for re-licensing.
“But what’s the point of buying the fuselage of a plane we already sold?
“We are going to pay for that twice or more the amount we sold the plane for. I’m sure someone out there is benefiting from these deals,”the source said.
The source addedSolomon Airlines also sold another Twin-Otter aircraft (H4-FNT) to Air PNG sometimes in 2010.
The aircraft, the source revealed, was refurbished and registered under Air PNG.
However, a few years later this same aircraft was leased to Solomon Airlines and now registered as H4-OTA.
It is unclear whether the aircraft has now been owned by the Solomon Airlines.
“If we are badly in need of aircrafts for the domestic fleet, why do we have to sell the aircrafts and then repurchase their parts and or lease them again?
“It’s just unbelievable the way the management is doing business.”
The source also revealed a second written-off Twin-Otter aircraft was purchased from Vanuatu.
“The aircraft was refurbished, but Solomon Airlines spent millions of dollars to get it up in the air,” the source said.
This aircraft is currently operating and registered as H4-NNP.
“These are very old aircrafts. But we are lucky to have a team of highly capable engineers who ensure safety standards are maintained.”
Asked about the safety concern, Director of Civil Aviation George Satusaid they are keeping tap on Solomon Airlines domestic fleet.
“At the moment all aircrafts are air-worthy,” MrSatu said.
He said the purchase of written-off aircraft from other companies is a normal practice in the airline industry.
However, MrSatu said any crashed plane or scrap bought from another country has to be repaired to meet the Standard Technical Certificate (STC) before it can be flown.
Asked does those mechanical problems happening to Solomon Airlines aircrafts justifies the certification the Aviation gives, MrSatu said anything that happens after that just happens.
He said any problems with the aircrafts have to be inspected and the Civil Aviation will have to do an inspection before giving Solomon Airlines the green light.
Solomon Airlines chief executive officer Ron Sumsum was sent questions but has not responded.
His lawyer told the Solomon Star Captain Sumsum can only respond if the sources of the story are revealed to him.
Meanwhile, our sources said if the Solomon Airlines management is serious about improving the domestic fleet, they should buy new aircrafts instead of scraps.
“What is the difference between buying a scrap and a new aircraft when the cost of refurbishing a scrap is almost the same as the price of a new aircraft?”
The source said Solomon Airlines is also leasing an Islander (H4-AAJ) from an Australian Ian Covil.
Another source spoken to said the issue of the status of the aircrafts used in the domestic fleet is a long time concern.
“But we cannot speak up for fear of losing our jobs,” the source said.
“Quite a good numbers of our staff have already been unfairly dismissed and we don’t want that to happen to us.”
In its 50-year history, Solomon Airlines has had only one domestic air disaster.
This was in 1991 the aircraft flying between Kirakira and Honiara crashed into the mountains of Guadalcanal, killing all passengers on board.
Report of an investigation carried out into the incident was never made public.
By DANIEL NAMOSUAIA