PARASI airfield in South Malaita, which has been closed for the past seven years, is now ready to take scheduled flights.
This was made possible after the government signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between three disputing parties who claimed ownership of the airport land in September 2017.
The Airport Taskforce led by the Ministry of Communication and Aviation (MCA) worked behind the scene to get the parties to agree to re-open the airport.
MCA engaged a contractor late last year to clear vegetation, clear obstructions, work on drainage and restored the integrity of the pavement, all of which was completed in March 2018.
On Saturday 31st March, the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI), MCA and Solomon Airlines conducted a test flight with a Twin Otter aircraft and made a successful landing on the airport.
Few trees need to be trimmed on both the approaches and debris needs clearance on the eastern end of the runway to be worked on but on overall the airport is now ready for commercial operations.
MCA is also working on plans to build a Terminal building for the airport shortly.
Chairman of the Aviation Task Force, Mr Moses Virivolomo who is also the Permanent Secretary of the MCA, took part in the test flight and was elated to see Solomon Airlines returning to serve residents of Small Malaita as well as East and West Are’are who have experienced hardships in having to travel by sea when the airport was closed more than seven years ago.
He acknowledged the continuous support from the leaders of the disputing parties and for their understanding in agreeing to re-open the airfield while waiting for the resolution of their land disputes by the responsible authorities.
Virivolomo added that the re-opening of the airfield is a step in the right direction towards facilitating whatever development aspirations there are, not only of Small Malaita, but also the Malaita Province and Solomon Islands generally.
He thanked the tireless efforts put in by the Aviation Task Force in negotiating the re-opening of the airfield and called upon the stakeholders/landowners and/or disputing parties at Manaoba airfield and Lomlom airfield to follow the examples set by the disputing parties of the Gwaunaruu airfield and, now, the Parasi airfield, to allow the opening of these airfields.
Virivolomo assured the people of Parasi that Solomon Airlines would commence fights as soon as their processes are completed around the middle of this year, 2018.