Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sarawak concern over ageing Fokkers

There is an urgent need to replace the “aged” aircraft in Sarawak's rural air service, said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie.

There are just too many technical problems and breakdowns plaguing the existing fleet, especially the 50-seater Fokkers, she said.

”There are too many disruptions. This is bad for tourism and has created a great deal of inconvenience for rural folk who depend on these flights.

“There is no point for the rural service sector to change hands between airlines but the problem of technical breakdowns keeps on happening,” she said when asked to comment on a planned review by Malaysia Airlines of the condition of the aircraft fleet belonging to Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), the current rural air service operator.

FAX is in the process of handing back the rural air service to MAS to focus on long-haul destinations.

Sources told The Star that out of the seven Fokkers – serving Miri, Bintulu, Sibu, Mukah, Limbang, La-was and Kota Kinabalu – only one is in flying condition.

In Kuala Lumpur, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said that it was necessary to have an independent audit on the planes being used by FAX to operate the rural air service before they are handed over to MASWings, a new subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines.

“There are details to be sorted before MAS can take over the service and, hopefully, by October, everything can be sorted out,” he said.

MAS chairman Datuk Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid said the most critical thing in the handing-over process was to ensure all planes were operationally efficient and safe.

Source : STAR
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