Air Nauru 737 Photo 242391271 Air Nauru © Andrew David Periam
© Andrew David Periam

United Airlines has come to the rescue of stranded vital cargo in the Marshall Islands with a chartered Air Nauru B737 freighter.

The islands’ air cargo services, operated by Asia Pacific Airlines (APA), were grounded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in February leaving cargo that included critical medical supplies and mail unable to move.

This prompted the declaration of a state of emergency by the government as the freight piled up at APA’s Honolulu and Guam facilities. More charters will almost certainly be needed to relieve what is now a two-month backlog – some 120 flights’ worth,  given APA’s former schedule.

Guam-based APA’s three B757s and one 727 were grounded, after it “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”.

However, APA president Adam Ferguson asserts that not only were the pilots fully trained, with decades of experience, but were qualified as instructors of trainee pilots.

Glyn Hughes, director-general of  Tiaca, said he was surprised by the extent to which Marshall Islands’ trade relied on APA.

“Considering this is a safety issue cited by the FAA, I think it will take some time to resolve… it looks like APA has an extensive schedule,” he said and suggested the government consider some diversification.

“The MI government will probably have to seek private charters to re-establish medical and other critical supply chains. If [APA] cannot address the flight check and training issues, a more permanent solution involving several carriers would be prudent.”

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