12 Apr 2014

Marshalls domestic air service grinds to a halt

8:35 am on 12 April 2014

Domestic air service in the Marshall Islands has ground to a halt as both Air Marshall Islands planes are grounded waiting for parts.

The larger 36-seat Dash-8 was expected to be back in the air this weekend, while the 19-seat Dornier, which normally services most of the outer islands, has been grounded since the end of last month awaiting landing gear equipment, and isn't expected to be operational until early next month.

A lack of funds to purchase needed spare parts continues to hurt the government's national airline, resulting in longer grounding periods for aircraft, undermining the airline's ability to generate revenue.

The Airlines General Manager Jefferson Barton says a 16,000 US dollar payment for the Dash-8 part was wired on Wednesday and he hopes the Aviation Authority will allow the plane back in the air.

For the Dornier, the national government approved a 100,000 US dollar emergency subsidy late last month, which has allowed for purchase of the landing gear equipment, expected to arrive late this month or early next month.

Jefferson Barton says the Airlines woes stem largely from the poor quality of outer island runways that are killing the planes.