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Only Airport Operator can close Airport: PS Virivolomo

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Moses Virivolomo has clarified that airports can only be closed by the airport operator through right processes.

MCA PS, Moses Virivolomo. Photo supplied

Mr. Virivolomo made the statement after a landowning group threatened to close the Lata airport this week.

He said the airport can only be closed if they see it fit or if there is any serious threat to the airport.

“The airport can only be closed by system operators, and maybe with the system of the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI) is required.  It can only be closed because of threats or something to do with the safety of the airport, it could be war or a natural hazard.

“So there will be easements carried out by the airport operator and if that proves that there is a need to close it, then we have a process to do so,” Mr Virivolomo said.

He further explains that since the existence of any airport, it is recorded under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

He said should there be any plans to close it, there is a process to inform every Aviation Sector users on the closure and its intended purposes.

“We can also provide the expected time for closure as well as a process we can follow to reopen the airport, it is called NOTAM (Notice to Airman).

“And for the landowners to threaten to close the airport is not right and is against the Aviation process,” he said

Mr. Virivolomo assures that the Lata airport is still operational as there is no NOTAM being released to explain its closure.

“For the Ministry, the Lata airport is not closed as we do not release any NOTAM to justify its closure.

“The threat we received was from the landowners who do not own that land anymore. It now belongs to the government which they acquired from the Landowners in 1970,” Mr. Virivolomo said.

Air services for this easternmost province is demanding and as the festive season is just around the corner, the threat from these landowners has stirred mixed emotions among the people of Temotu Province and many have seen it as not a welcoming news at all.

The Permanent Secretary therefore, called on the good people of Temotu Province to refrain from causing disturbance that will affect the flow of flight services to the province.

by Simon Tavake

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