Rota lawmakers said yesterday that daily, direct passenger flights to and from Rota have been derailed since Saturday because Freedom Air's main aircraft that they say can carry some 30 passengers encountered mechanical problems.
Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota) has scheduled a meeting today of the Senate Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee with Freedom Air for an update about the carrier's situation. The PUTC panel will also call in officials from the Commonwealth Development Authority because of Freedom Air's loan proposal with CDA for the airline to stay float.
“We want to know when they expect the air craft to be fixed, or whether it's being fixed as we speak because it has been affecting residents going to or from Rota. We also want to know whether Freedom Air will be able to get help from CDA,” Ayuyu told Saipan Tribune.
Ayuyu, chairman of the PUTC Committee and the Rota Legislative Delegation, said that Freedom Air's Saipan manager Dennis Cruz informed him about the aircraft's mechanical problem yesterday afternoon.
Cruz, when contacted, said he would later talk to the media. As of press time, Cruz had yet to comment on the issue.
Rep. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota) separately said yesterday she hopes Freedom Air “will be provided the necessary financial assistance so that it can continue to provide dependable and reliable direct air service to and from Rota as it has always done.”
Santos was referring to Freedom Air's pending loan application with CDA. But she said there are other financial institutions that could also extend financial help or loan to Freedom Air, including the Marianas Public Land Trust.
Freedom Air's downed 30-seater aircraft, according to lawmakers, flies daily between Rota and Saipan. It's not known as of yesterday whether Freedom Air's smaller air craft that can seat only four to five passengers has been used since Saturday.
Cape Air, meanwhile, provides flights to Rota on Wednesdays and Fridays only, but they go through Guam before flying to Rota from Saipan and back.
Lawmakers said since Saturday, there's been no airline passenger and mail service to and from Rota.
In July, Freedom Air spokesperson Amjad Farhoud said the interisland carrier needs an additional $600,000 loan from CDA to allow it to continue its operations for the next six months.
Farhoud told members of CDA’s Development Corporation Division board that Freedom Air will use the money to buy airplane engine spare parts to avoid shutting down its services when the plane breaks down.
Freedom Air applied for a $2.9 million loan, but CDA approved only $900,000 in March this year. Freedom Air said the amount is not enough to cover the priority expenditures, adding that its attempts to seek loans from private banks were unsuccessful because of lack of asset/collateral to back up the loan proposal.