MSA’s 1st flight goes to Tinian


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, left, Finance Secretary David Atalig, and Miss Marianas Savannah Lyn Delos Santos board Marianas Southern Airways’ first flight to Tinian following the unveiling of the plane at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport last Friday. (KIMBERLY ESMORES)

Marianas Southern Airways took to the skies last Friday morning with its first inaugural flight headed for Tinian, soon to be followed by its first flight to Rota, and then to Guam. Among the first passengers to experience the CNMI’s newest domestic airline were Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Finance Secretary David Atalig, MSA president Keith Stewart, and more.

MSA’s first of three Tecnam aircrafts took flight at around 9:40am last Friday and headed for Tinian with its first passengers that also included Southern Airways chief marketing officer Keith Sisson, Miss Marianas 2021 Savannah Lyn Delos Santos, and others.

In an interview with Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, he said he is excited that another airline has stepped up to provide much needed air service for Tinian and he hopes that with two airlines now servicing interisland travel, Tinian will see an economic boost.

“The people of Tinian are excited about this. This will be an additional air service to the one we have right now, which is Star Marianas. We’re very thankful for Star Marianas but competition is very healthy. My hope is that both airlines can ultimately boost out economy on Tinian, boost our tourism, and provide affordable flights to our people to and from Saipan,” he said.

Leading up to both the unveiling of the new aircraft, boarding, and takeoff, Stewart, Torres, Atalig, and Commonwealth Ports Authority chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds shared their excitement for MSA’s first of what they hope will be the start of many flights on the islands that make up the Marianas.

King-Hinds gave thanks to all those who helped make this a reality for the CNMI.

“There are a lot of things I do in CPA as a board member but this project is special for me. As a resident of Tinian and somebody who has felt the impact in terms of access to basic services, having an alternative service provides our people an option and the ability to grow. This, to me, is special because you, MSA, are our partner in creating a stronger, more sustainable, more resilient community,” she said.

According to Torres, it’s always a blessing when an airline decides to partner with the CNMI by providing service but what makes MSA special is its goal to further connect the Marianas through air transportation.

“It’s always nice, it’s always a blessing to gain airlines here. We’re so excited about this airline because not only will it boost tourism for other CNMI islands, but of course it will also provide our people with another option to visit neighboring islands,” he said.

CNMI dignitaries join Marianas Southern Airways crew in a ribbon-cutting to unveil MSA’s first Tecnam plane that took to the skies last Friday morning as MSA’s official inaugural flight. (KIMBERLY B. ESMORES)

Torres also encouraged the CNMI to show patience with the new airline as it is just starting up. “One thing I’d like to ask our people is to be patient with the new airline. Although the airline is not new to flying, they are new to us. Please give them the opportunity to grow,” he said.

Atalig said he looks forward to the many things MSA will do for the islands of Tinian and Rota, which have both been in dire need of affordable interisland air service.

“On behalf of the Commonwealth, we’re very grateful for this new airline. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without all the government and private entities who came together to make this happen. In January, I was tasked with a project to find a new airline because of an emergency suspension of interisland flights back in December. It was an interesting journey. Now this is another way to help our economy. We’re very cognizant of our brothers and sisters on Rota and Tinian for not having the essential air service that they need, not only for leisure travel, but also for medical reasons, and more so for their economy. We need to help Rota and Tinian with additional travel. This helps stimulates the economy. I’m so excited for this,” he said.

MSA president Stewart also shared his appreciation to those within the CNMI community who welcomed MSA and hopes that the community will continue to support the startup airline.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a long time. …With any kind of airline and project like this, it’s really going to take a strong collaboration between the government and private businesses to go and start one up. It can’t just happen on its own, so we thank the administration, Gov. Torres, Secretary Atalig, and CPA chair Kim King-Hinds. We appreciate the support across the board. It’s been overwhelming, the support we’ve received. We’re going to work hard to try and not let anyone down. Thank you all so much,” Stewart said.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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