Poor Quality of Tarmac Causes Damage to Airplane Tyres on First Day of Flights out of Fagalii

"The damage caused to the aircraft tyres was due to the poor quality of the tarmac."


Fagalii Airport finally reopened to flights yesterday on Tuesday 27 June 2023 almost four weeks after its official launch by the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure who spoke to the airport’s safety for public travel.

Reopening of Fagalii Airport, May 2023.

“The airport has passed all aviation safety requirements and also has an extended runway,” the Minister had assured.

“The airport has had a major face lift in and around the check in area, departure lounge, as well as its arrivals area.”

“That also includes the additional 100m of runway. It is now 800 metres, compared to the 700m runway that was there before..”

That runway, according to Samoa Airways Chief Executive Officer Fauoo Fatu Tielu, caused damage to their plane tyres on the first day of operation.

Fauoo said in an interview with Samoa Global News that the damage caused to the aircraft tyres was due to the poor quality of the tarmac.

Aircraft tyres damaged out by the poor quality of the tarmac.

“Sa faaleagaina isi pa’u o le matou vaalele i le aso ananafi talu ona tatala Fagalii.. e mafua mai i le patupatu ma le lē lamolemole o le tar..”

The Samoa Airways Chief Executive also conveyed several concerns he said had been voiced by the airline’s pilots.

They are concerned with the length of the runway,” said Fauoo.

Pilots also say there are distractions such as trees on the West side, and a telecommunications pole in the line of sight for landing.

Fauolo also highlighted that aircraft checks and maintenance cannot be carried out at Fagalii. The engineers are only available at Faleolo.

“If an issue arises, the plane would have to be flown to Faleolo for maintenance..”

Fauolo said the move to restart operations from Fagalii Airport imposes immediate extra costs to Samoa Airways and an increase to airfares between the two Samoas looks to be a certain.

“It would most likely be less than 10% so around USD$20 dollars,” said Fauoo.

Another huge cost to operations according to the CEO who is also a senior member of the Samoa Institute of Accountants, is due to the fact that last flights of the day cannot land at Fagalii.

“The day’s flights have to end at Faleolo because it not possible to land at Fagalii when the evening falls and it is too dark.”

“There is the transport cost of staff between Faleolo and Fagalii, as well as rental space and other operational costs at Fagalii,” concluded Fauoo.

Co-Owner of Talofa Airways and long serving Pharmacist in Samoa, Maria Westerlund Hunter.

Following the official launch ceremony to re-open Fagalii Airport, several concerns were raised by pilots including Talofa Airways owners, Toleafoa Captain Jeffrey Hunter and Maria Westerlund Hunter.

Mrs Hunter told Samoa Global News they had concerns with the quality of the tarmac especially what they saw on the day of the re-opening launch.

“The airstrip and tarmac should be smooth, instead, there were visible pieces of gravel on the runway which could easily flick into aircraft engines or damage propellas” Maria Hunter had said at the time.

“These are the risks, and the safety of the public is our main concern,” she added.

“Sa tatau ona lamolemole le tar, e fikifiki solo le iliili ne’i aafia ai afi, ae le gata i lea o pe’ape’a, ma ono tula’i mai ai lea o se faalavelave.”

Mrs Hunter also aired concerns that the refurbishment work done to the airstrip and tarmac was a cost-cutting exercise, instead of contracting quality specialists in the area of airport construction.

Locally owned Ulia Construction was announced by Government to have been awarded the contract to refurbish the airstrip and add another 100 metres according to the Minister of Transport at the opening ceremony.

Ulia Construction is well known for their work on roads across Samoa over the years, however, according to Mrs Hunter, roadwork specialists may not have been the best choice for the tarmac and extended airstrip.

“A firm with the right qualifications and experience should have been contracted for the airport, instead of looking to selecting the lowest bidder out of roadwork companies,” said Maria.