Airlines CEO Gebers clarifies A320 issues

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DEAR EDITOR, on behalf of Solomon Airlines, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for any inconvenience experienced and to thank all our valued customers for their patience over the past few weeks.

As they would be aware, we recently experienced several disruptions which unfortunately occurred during one of the busiest seasons of the year.

Most of our problems were caused by the failure of the Airbus’ Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The APU is a small jet engine usually housed in the tail of most aircraft. The APU provides electrical power and air for air-conditioning on the ground. In cases of the APU not working, all the aircraft manufacturers provide alternative procedures which allow the aircraft to continue operating safely.

These procedures require starting the aircraft using an external Air Start Unit (ASU) and a Ground Power Unit (GPU). The process is slow and cumbersome leading to late departures and unfortunately does not provide air-conditioning on the ground.

Managing disruptions over the festive season is always challenging due to the large number of passengers involved, staff being on leave and many suppliers being closed during the public holidays and this year proved particularly difficult with Christmas Day falling on a Monday and with many suppliers closed from mid-Friday until Wednesday morning.

Despite the difficult circumstances, we were able to maintain our International services, however we did experience a few delays while an alternative aircraft was sourced from Air Nauru and flown to Honiara from Brisbane.

I need to stress that in our business, safety always comes first!

Solomon Airlines has never operated any of its aircraft using procedures which are not approved by both the manufacturer and the regulating authorities.

If the aircraft cannot be operated in accordance with those procedures and regulations, we either replace the aircraft, as we did in this case, or we cancel the flight.

Domestic Services

As far as our domestic services go, we have unfortunately had to reschedule many flights over the past few months due to unserviceable equipment including weather radar, difficulty in obtaining spare parts, bad weather and heavy rains which flood runway surfaces.

Our domestic aircraft operate in harsh conditions caused primarily by the state of the runways that we operate to.

The rough surfaces of our domestic runways cause significant vibration during the landing and take-off phases of flight. This vibration is amplified in certain parts of the aircraft and often leads to the premature failure of components.

The failure of these components results in schedule disruptions as we must remove the aircraft from service to make the appropriate repairs.

We are not responsible for maintaining the runway surfaces throughout the Solomon Islands.

Because of the high costs of ongoing maintenance and cancelled or rescheduled flights, we have offered to pay for and do the required runway rehabilitation work on many occasions.

But on each occasion that we have requested permission to do this work, we have been denied the approval to do so.

In closing I would like to point out all airlines experience technical problems and disruptions to their services from time to time.

And while most have a large fleet of aircraft which allows them to minimise the effects of a disruption through rescheduling flights, we only have a small fleet of aircraft, so all delays and cancellations are immediately obvious to all concerned.

Again, we sincerely regret any inconvenience experienced by our customers but we will always cancel or reschedule a flight to ensure the safety of all concerned.

It goes without saying Solomon Airlines’ passenger and crew safety is paramount and must always come first.

Brett Gebers

CEO – Solomon Airlines