Solomon Islands Airlines Board Chairman, Mr. Bill Tyson and his Deputy, Central Bank Governor, Mr. Denton Rarawa paid tribute to the staff of the national carrier when the airlines celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Wednesday."Fifty years is a remarkable milestone, an important phase in the airline's history when you look back it's a credit to all the people who work for the airline and those who have worked with the airline through its time," said Tyson.
The airline's chairman says the national carrier's resurgence in the past four years has only been possible through the hard work of staff and management, good decision by the board of directors, the active presence of a strong chief executive officer and the support of successive governments.
While the mood this week is one of celebration at Solomon Airlines, a little over four years ago the status of the airline had been far from sound.
"The country faced some very difficult times between 1998 and 2005 because of those issues the airline got itself into a bad financial situation.
"When I came on the board in late 2008 a decision had to be made either we continue with the airline, we sell the airline, or we walk away from it. The board believed there were some wonderful people working for the airline and it showed that it could run itself effectively given that it could get out of the debt," said Tyson.
He says a key decision to sell one of the airline's twin otter aircrafts provided enough financial support for Solomon Airlines to begin its restructure and recovery plan. In December 2008 the government endorsed the plan and in 2009 the airline settled its debts.
Tyson says the airline's future is bright as it prepares to open its new multimillion dollar office complex at the Henderson Airport and receive its new $40 million Dash 8 from Greece.
He said the purchase of the Dash 8, which is the biggest and most important acquisition in the airline's history, was necessary due to a big increase in lease charges from Airlines PNG.
In addition Tyson says Solomon Islanders had grown accustomed to and expected the standard of service provided by the Dash 8.
As for the new office, he says this will centralize the airline's operations under one roof.
Looking ahead beyond the airline's 50th anniversary, Deputy Chairman, Denton Rarwawa says for the airline to be economically viable it will need to expand the Dash 8 services to other airstrips apart from the Gizo, Seghe, Munda, Kirakira, Lata, and Auki.
"The government, donors, development partners need to ensure that all airstrips can handle the Dash 8 plane. The airstrips need to be upgraded so that they are all weather and tar sealed.
Source: Press Release, Solomon Airlines