Fagali'i Airport Apia Samoa

Fagali'i Airport is near the golf course on the east side of Apia, Samoa, just five km from the center of town. Until 2005 Fagali'i received frequent daily flights from Pago Pago, American Samoa, but that year it was closed over safety concerns. The runway is said to be a little short, there are no runway lights, and the navegational equipment could be better. There's a valley at one end of the landing strip and a hill is nearby. An accident at Fagali'i would not only endanger passengers but also persons on the ground in this densely populated area. Therefore, since 2005 all of the Pago Pago flights have been diverted to Faleolo International Airport, 35 kilometers west of Apia. Faleolo is less convenient for Apia-bound passengers but at least it's safe.

Now Polynesian Airlines, which owns the land on which Fagali'i is built, wants the old airport reopened. However, Barney Sene, executive vice president of Inter Island Airways, one of two carriers currently offering scheduled service between Pago Pago and Faleolo, says his company's planes will not switch back to Fagali'i until major improvements are made. Safety first, says Sene. Inter Island Airways will begin using a fast Dornier 328 aircraft in April or May and Polynesian seems to be thrashing around looking for ways to compete. Polynesian's safety record is good but not impeccable. In 1997 a Polynesian Airlines Twin Otter crashed into Mount Vaea outside Apia and three of the five persons aboard were killed. Decades earlier in 1970, a Polynesian DC-3 crashed on takeoff from Faleolo and all 32 people aboard died. Before Fagali'i Airport is reopened, the aviation authorities in both Samoas will need to carry out a thorough reexamination of safety issues.

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