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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Arctic Circle aircraft finally arrives

Arctic Circle Air president Anthony Pellegrino points to the Britten-Norman aircraft, which arrived on Saipan Wednesday night after four days of travel from Adak, Alaska’s southernmost town. (Clarissa V. David) After several months of delay, Arctic Circle Air will finally start operations soon following the arrival of its aircraft that would transport agricultural produce and other goods within the CNMI and to Guam.

Company president Anthony Pellegrino said the Britten-Norman aircraft, which can carry 2,500 lbs of cargo, arrived at 10:30pm Wednesday night after four days of travel with pilot Ron Sheardown and another co-pilot on board.

From its originating point at Adak, Alaska’s southernmost town, the aircraft had layovers in Midway, Majuro, and Pohnpei before heading to Saipan.

Sheardown said in an interview yesterday that they had “good tailwinds,” which made the difference in their journey. However, they had a setback in Pohnpei where “for some reasons, our documents were not to their liking,” prompting them to fly to Saipan after dark.

Sheardown, who has close to 60 years of flying and management experience through his own jet and helicopter business, described the aircraft as a “good little airplane.”

“Everything is running well. There are small, little repairs that need to be done but that’s normal,” added Sheardown, who was with Pellegrino, agricultural consultant Isidoro T. Cabrera, and local airline staff at the Arctic Circle Air office yesterday to check on the $400,000-aircraft.

Pellegrino admitted that the company encountered a lot of problems getting the aircraft to Saipan but “now that the plane is here, this ought to put people to work.”

He reiterated that the purpose of the Arctic Circle Air is to serve as a “bridge” between Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam by having farmers market and ship their products to and from the islands.

Freight charges, he said, are so expensive that local farmers cannot venture into selling their goods to nearby islands.

“There’s a huge market out there and the idea is to get the farmers to grow their products and start selling them,” said Pellegrino.

According to him, Arctic Circle Air is a “community project” where local farmers are their “subcontractors” as well as “investors.”

“They become a part-owner and have a proprietary interest in the company,” he added.

Pellegrino disclosed that they are scheduled to meet with some 60 to 70 farmers on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota next week to show them the aircraft and to get things going and start operating the aircraft by next month.

He said the aircraft will initially fly three to four times a week. As the demand increases, so will the frequency of flights and the acquisition of a second aircraft, said Pellegrino.

With the aircraft’s arrival, Pellegrino and Cabrera expect to see an influx of farmers and other community members investing in Arctic Circle Air and boosting the agriculture industry in the Northern Marianas.

“We are ready to start working,” said Cabrera, who will work on getting the farmers to sign individual contracts to supply the produce that would be transported within the islands.

For more information, call Pellegrino at 287-8310 or Cabrera at 483-1785.

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