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Pacific News Briefs

Samoa Airways twin otter that is being retrofitted
Compiled by Samoa News staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Samoa Airway’s twin otter aircraft that is being retrofitted in Canada will return in November as the old parts are being removed and new ones fitted.

The aircraft, registered under Samoa Airways as 5W-FAW, is now under the care of Unity Aviation Canada Ltd.

“This week, the crew has commenced the disassembly process, preparing for paint and stripping inspections," said Fauo’o Fatu Tielu, Samoa Airways Chief Executive Officer.

The Unity crew has already removed the engines, props, flight controls, wings, H/Stab, V/Stab, rudder, elevators, interior, and avionics. Currently, the fuel system is being dismantled, and the wings are undergoing paint stripping.

"This marks an exciting milestone for Samoa Airways as we embark on this retrofit project to enhance safety and reliability for our passengers," stated Fauo’o.

Two pilots from Planes and Parts Ltd, a Canadian company contracted by Samoa Airways to fly the aircraft to Calgary, were in Apia last month, collaborating with Samoa Airways engineers and staff to prepare the aircraft for its journey to Canada.

With three additional fuel tanks installed inside the aircraft, the flight took 15 hours directly from Faleolo to Hilo Hawaii, where the crew rested before continuing on to Canada.

The aircraft is expected to return in November, just in time for the busy Christmas season.The next twin otter aircraft is expected to be ferried to Canada next year around February or March 2025.

“The retrofit project, funded by Samoa Airways and loan financing, represents a significant investment that promises a high return, given the extensive mechanical and engineering tasks being carried out by Unity Aviation Canada Ltd while the aircraft is in Canada," stated Fauo’o.

Samoa Airways has an aging fleet. Most of the aircraft are over four decades old and still in operation. Retrofitting is the cheaper option for the airline as there is still reluctance by the government to invest in new aircraft or lease bigger ones.

The government has still not made it clear if a 737 would be purchased to start servicing the Auckland and Nadi routes.

(Samoa Observer)


Guam's acting governor wants the deadline extended for submissions on missile testing plans.

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) gave the people of Guam 30 days, until July 2, for submissions on the proposal, which could allow missile testing twice a year for 10 years.

Guam's acting governor Joshua Tenorio wrote to Lieutenant General Heath Collins of the MDA and requested a 60-day extension of the deadline.

He stated being concerned the tests affecting landowners and residents in northern Guam.

The US territory is not only a military base but also home to at least 170,000 people.

It is also visited by millions of tourists - there were 1.6 million visitors to Guam in 2019. The majority of arrivals came from Korea, followed by Japan.

"I am most especially concerned about any impacts on land owners, including the possibility of the need to evacuate their properties during testing," Tenorio.

Pacific Center for Island Security (PCIS) chair Robert Underwood welcomed the extension request and said the wider community deserved a discussion about the proposed missile testing.

"Acting Governor Tenorio's request is critical. Fully assessing the community impact requires more than a 30-day notice that the MDA provided," he said.

Underwood criticized the Defense Agency for not first issuing a draft proposal before this final proposal was released for "review".

The US Missile Defense Agency's proposed final of the Environmental Assessment/Overseas Environmental Assessment (EA/OEA) states, "Notice of restrictions would be provided well in advance of any necessary land closures, and the Department of Defense would coordinate with affected private landowners to relocate during this time period at no cost to the land owners temporary restrictions would be rare (one to two times per year) and would be in place for up to four days."

(RNZ Pacific)


Palau has raised its minimum wage by 75 cents per hour to US$4.25 an hour.

Senate passed a US$13 million supplemental budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which included the minimum wage increase.

It increases the 2024 budget from $119m to $132m, surpassing pre-pandemic funding levels.

Island Times Palau reports the extra money will also go towards increasing the child subsidy rate, a tax refund eligibility expansion, and Palauans 60 years and over with no other income sources will receive a $480 refund.

(RNZ Pacific)


Mangaia, an outer island in the Cooks, is celebrating 200 years of Christianity, attracting a huge crowd.

Resident Metua Vaiimene told Cook Islands News over 1000 people attended the event — double the remote island's population.

Held at the Bicentennial Arena there was dancing, singing and an island feast for the opening on Saturday with celebrations continuing until this coming Sunday.

Other islands have been marking similar bicentennial events, with Rarotonga in July last year and Aitutaki in 2021.

(RNZ Pacific)


Extreme drought has persisted in parts of the US-affiliated Pacific islands, but generally conditions have been easing.

Last week's US drought monitor says drought conditions show some improvement across much of the region, with the exception of the northern islands in Yap State and the Northern Mariana islands.

Rainfall has also provided some relief.

However, water conservation measures are highly encouraged to continue for the dry islands of Yap State.

(RNZ Pacific)


New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has invited Fiji to join PACER Plus and hopes the country will "seize" that opportunity.

PACER Plus is a comprehensive regional development-centered free trade agreement between New Zealand, Australia and nine other Pacific island countries.

The Fiji Times reports Mr Luxon saying the deal significantly liberalizes trade in goods and makes it easier for businesses to provide services.

He also noted both countries were able to sign up to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in San Francisco last year.

(RNZ Pacific)


A 44-year-old man from Vailele was detained by customs officials at Faleolo International Airport on Saturday after being found in possession of marijuana upon his arrival from American Samoa. 

The discovery was made during a routine inspection for incoming passengers, leading to an immediate response from local law enforcement.

It has been confirmed that the 44-year-old was on the Talofa Airways 3 pm flight from American Samoa. 

According to the Police Commissioner, Auapa'au Logoitino Filipo, the customs officials promptly alerted the police, who dispatched a team from their Faleolo outpost to Faleolo Airport to handle the situation. 

The detained individual, whose identity has not been disclosed, was then taken into custody for further questioning.

During the interrogation, the suspect was found to be carrying not only marijuana but also US$8,000 in cash. Auapa'au Logoitino Filipo stated that the man claimed his trip to American Samoa was to sell "koko Samoa," a traditional Samoan cocoa beverage.

Following the questioning, the 44-year-old was formally charged with possession of marijuana. 

The substantial amount of cash he was carrying has raised additional suspicions about the nature of his activities.

He has since been released on bail on conditions that he signs at the police station every Friday and has already surrendered all his travel documents. He is required to appear in court on 24 June. 

(Samoa Observer)