Please clear the air on the Pago plane

By The Editorial Board 22 June 2024, 10:00AM

Why is there so much fuss over an aircraft that may have come into the country unannounced? So far, the government authority for civil aviation has not responded to any of the queries sent by this newspaper.

The Tecnam P-2012 Traveller aircraft with the registration N1202P arrived on Wednesday and departed Faleolo on Thursday. This information is displayed on Flightradar24, an aircraft tracking website.

It is believed that the aircraft owned by the recently established aviation firm Pago Wings managed to land at Faleolo International Airport without obtaining the necessary air service license. It is also suspected that the airline did not seek landing approval within the required timeframe.

What is more alarming is that the airline Pago Wings is operated by the same individual whose pleasure boat, Kite Runner left Pago Pago and entered into Samoan waters without the proper permits in April last year.

The situation that this newspaper revealed last year was that the businessman through his connection with the government acquired the papers at the whim of a phone call. Covering this story was also a harrowing experience for a female journalist. She was detained unlawfully by a cabinet minister in his office when she posed questions to him.

The concern here is that the same may have happened with the plane. It is the people you know. Despite whatever the connections maybe, if the required protocol under the law has not been followed, then action has to be taken.

Efforts have been made to obtain comments from the Minister for Civil Aviation regarding the issuance of the landing permit. His office has acknowledged receipt of queries from this newspaper and indicated they will respond in due course.

Requests must be submitted to the Ministry at least seven days before departure and include the following required documents: details such as the aircraft operator's name and address, type and registration markings of the aircraft, business name and address of the charterer, planned flight routes, estimated dates and times of arrival and departure at Faleolo, number of passengers or amount of freight to be offloaded in Samoa, purpose of the flight, origin airport, verification and current certificate of airworthiness (with reviewed certificate if applicable), certificate of aircraft registration, and insurance certificate.

Rules and policies cannot be changed and tailored for special people. It stays the same for everyone. Preferential treatment shows the lack of accountability and there is blatant action not to tell the public anything.

It is never a good idea to keep the public in the dark. When that happens, misinformation spreads and that is dangerous. What was the purpose of the flight and did the plane bring any cargo? There needs to be answers.

A lot has been learnt from the Kite Runner experience. The leader of the government should have put her foot down then and taken the cabinet ministers responsible for bending the law and doing favours to task.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa made an address in parliament about the matter and after that nothing much has been said. That happened almost a year ago and the nation still awaits the debate on that statement.

All that is being asked, is a statement from the government authority explaining if the proper procedure of obtaining a landing permit was followed. How long before the departure was the application made and if there was an emergency that required issuance of the permit?

How many people were on board? Did anyone arrive or leave the country and did the aircraft carry cargo?

It seems that the government is trying very hard to hide something. That is the notion that is being given by not responding to the media. We want to report on facts and that can only be done if government departments stop treating everything like a national secret.

That is why the proposed Freedom of Information law is much awaited.  

It is also good that Samoa Airways has formally requested an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) into allegations that Pago Wings conducted unauthorised charter flights between Tutuila and Manu’a.

Fauo’o Fatu Tielu, C.E.O. of Samoa Airways said concerns over passenger safety prompted this request.

Fauo'o said their lawyer is handling the matter with F.A.A. over the concerns raised by Samoa Airways.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is just four months away, and incidents such as this do not look good for border security.

By The Editorial Board 22 June 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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