Marshall Islands Yokwe Airport Credit Marshall Islands Guide
Credit Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands government is scrambling for agreements with other carriers after Asia Pacific Airlines (APA) was grounded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), leaving freight marooned.

APA is the islands’ sole provider of international air cargo services, but the FAA grounded the Guam-based carrier’s fleet of three B757s and one 727 last month and talks have begun with United Airlines and Nauru Airlines .

Indeed, last week, the Marshall Islands declared a state of emergency due to the ban, now in its ninth week, essentially cutting off many essential services, including medicines and mail.

United and Nauru already provide infrequent passenger services and are in discussion with the islands’ aviation task force (ATF) over the possible chartering of cargo aircraft to relieve the strain, according to local news sources.

Another avenue for the ATF is Air Marshall Islands, based in Majuro and providing island interconnectivity with a handful of De Havilland and Dornier propeller aircraft.

The ATF says that, despite its lack of any aircraft with sufficient range, the carrier does have the legal right to land on the US mainland and could, theoretically, retool to operate larger aircraft.

Meanwhile, mail continues piling up in Honolulu and Guam and, according to health secretary Jack Niedenthal, the islands’ stock of medicine, including HIV treatments, will run out in less than a fortnight.

Its trade in fresh tuna, based in Majuro, is also under threat as millions of dollars’ worth of fish are unable to be exported.

Until the ban, APA operated more than 60 flights a month, supporting the Marshall Islands as well as Micronesia, American Samoa and Palau. According to the FAA, APA “failed to produce records showing that the two individuals who provide proficiency checks for company pilots were properly trained and qualified for the past two years”.

The FAA also claimed APA had disregarded instructions it had issued in December and continued to operate, even when it was found “in apparent non-compliance”.

Appealing the FAA suspension, APA president Adam Ferguson said the pilots were not only fully trained, but had been flying for decades and were even qualified to instruct other pilots.

He described the ban as “ridiculous”, adding: “The records the FAA was requiring the airline to provide were not required to be retained by the airline under the FAA’s own rules, as they were retained by the employer of those pilots.”

“APA has challenged the suspension in a filing with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), as it is in full compliance with all training record requirements and is working to return to service as quickly as possible.”

Mr Ferguson  told media this week the NTSB had “thrown out” 15 of the 26 allegations made by FAA regarding instructor training records, but that his company had, nonetheless, taken steps to designate a new training centre and re-train its crews.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.