(SIG Press Release): AFTER 5 years of closure, Lomlom airfield in the reef islands, Temotu province is now ready to take scheduled flights.
The airport has been closed since its completion in 2013.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI), Airport Task Force and the Ministry of Communication and Aviation (MCA) made the announcement of the re-opening following a successful test flight with a DASH8 aircraft on Sunday 30th September 2018.
CAASI will liaise with Solomon Airlines on issues observed on the test flight and will start their internal processes to be ready for the inaugural flight in mid-November 2018.
Chairman of the Airport Task Force and Permanent Secretary of the MCA Moses Virivolomo said his team was happy to meet with the people of surrounding communities of Lomlom during the test flight.
He said the people of the reef Islands have experienced hardships in having to travel by sea to access needed services and do business in Lata and Honiara.
“The Government is excited to re-open Lomlom as soon as possible to provide the services to our people in Temotu province,” he said.
Mr Virivolomo acknowledged the continuous support by the leaders of the community, resource owners and Ngaube landowners association for working with the government to allow the test flight and later for commercial flights to resume.
The Permanent Secretary also assured the resources owners that MCA will work with them to resolve outstanding issues related to the construction of the airport.
“The re-opening of the airfield is a step in the right direction towards facilitating whatever development aspirations there are, not only for Reef Islands, but also Temotu Province and Solomon Islands generally,” he said.
Mr. Virivolomo also acknowledged the tireless efforts put in by the Airport Task Force in negotiating the opening of the airfield.
He also thanked the taskforce legal advisor the outgoing Attorney General Mr James Apaniai for availing his time to travel with team to help negotiate the reopening of Lomlom and other closed airports around the country.
In 2016, MCA set up the Airport Taskforce and mandated to open four closed airports in Solomon Islands namely Gwaunaru’u, Parasi, Manaoba and Lomlom.
Within 2 years, the 4 closed airports have opened for the travelling public and this is a remarkable achievement.
The taskforce is led by the MCA and comprised of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Surveys, Attorney General’s Chambers and CAASI.
“Though with very little resources at its disposal the taskforce was successful because the team visited the people at their homes and listened to their concerns,” he said.
Mr Virivolomo said he was pleased to witness and hear the excitements and the benefits the people talked about when government services and business opportunities would be introduced to the province.
“For most of the closed airports the Airport Taskforce was successful in getting the disputing parties to sign a Memorandum of Agreement for air services to resume while their issues and claims are dealt with by the relevant authorities and government,” he said.
He said as for Lomlom airport, the taskforce visited reef islands early this year 2018 and got consent from the resources owners on the ground, the Gnaube Landowners Association and Honiara landowners to arrange a test flight back in August 2018.
The flight, however, didn’t take place in August after two Honiara based landowners threatened the test flight.
However, the permanent secretary said he was impressed that discussions with the stakeholders have resulted in an agreement that all issues related to the airport be dealt with the government through relevant procedures, while flights will be allowed to continue service Lomlom.