A VIP delegation joined Solomon Airlines today to formally welcome the airline’s new 19-seat De Havilland Twin Otter into the fleet, prior to its anticipated entry into commercial service.

Following a blessing at Henderson Airport, the national carrier’s newest aircraft, registration H4-SIC, took off this afternoon from Honiara carrying dignitaries, VIP guests, tourism officials, and Solomon Airlines representatives.

Among passengers onboard were Permanent Secretary at Ministry for Finance and Treasury Mckinnie Dentana, Minister for Finance and Treasury, Hon. Harry Kuma; Solomon Airlines Chairman Mr. Frank Wickham; Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI), Mr. Brian Halisanau; Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Mr. Moses Virivolomo; Director of the Economic Reform Unit (ERU) Mr. Rictor Luaboe; Chairman of Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI) Mr. Chris Hapa, Attorney General of the Solomon Islands Mr. John Muria (Jr) and CEO of Tourism Solomons Mr. Josefa Tuamoto.

The newest addition to Solomon Airlines’ commercial operations was delivered to Honiara in February by US Aircraft company and Twin Otter specialists IKHANA Aircraft Services, a respected provider to the worldwide aerospace industry.

The completely ‘relifed’ aircraft includes an additional 1,500lb take-off and landing weight capability, new interior and seating, and airline-grade digital avionics system.

Following its arrival in the country, the airline has followed the normal steps of registering the aircraft, adding it to its Airline Operating Certificate, and conducting pilot and crew training.  The aircraft is expected to commence regular scheduled service on the airline’s domestic network next week.

Mr. Frank Wickham, Chairman of Solomon Airlines said the commissioning of the new Twin Otter aircraft was doubly significant for the national carrier.

“As well as inaugurating the latest aircraft addition to our fleet, we are witnessing a symbolic step forward,” he said.

“The arrival of this aircraft opens new possibilities for our domestic operation, and it also signals confidence that even in this era of COVID-19, we can continue to progress, we are resilient and we are continuing to prepare for better times ahead.

“This is a very positive development for air services between the Solomon Islands and also for the time to come when eventually we also welcome tourists back to the country,” Mr. Wickham said.

Minister for Finance and Treasury, Hon. Harry Kuma said Solomon Airlines continuing fleet investment will have significant flow-on effects for the local economy.

“The purchase of this domestic aircraft is an indication of our National Coalition for Advancement Government’s investment in the future strategy for the national carrier.  A vital pillar of that strategy includes responsibility for ensuring adequate, safe, and reliable air services between our islands.

“Economic development and the welfare of many communities depend upon continuing air access and improving aviation infrastructure. Even in these challenging economic times, this is an indication of our commitment to the improvement of aviation access within the Solomon Islands,” he said.

Chairman of the Board of Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI) Mr. Chris Hapa echoed the sentiments of the Honorable Minister of Finance and Treasury.

“As a private company and State-Owned Enterprise, Solomon Airlines must continue to seek opportunities to maximize revenue and be cost-efficient, while at the same time providing essential services within the country and continue being the air link to the outside world,” he said.

Mr. Brett Gebers CEO of Solomon Airlines said the arrival of the aircraft was the culmination of several years of thorough analysis and searching for the right aircraft for the Solomon Islands.

“This aircraft is another significant step in improving the operating efficiency and quality of domestic air services within the Solomon Islands,” Mr. Gebers said.

“We express our appreciation to the Solomon Islands Government for their assistance, which enabled us to complete the purchase of the new Twin Otter aircraft, and bring us to this point here today,” he said.

“Looking forward, this aircraft will enable us to carry more people and cargo more efficiently over the longer distances between islands, producing better service and comfort for our customers and better economies of scale for our business,” he added.