New airline launches in Papua region with four aircraft
Nethy Dharma Somba
The Jakarta Post
In a bid to ease the movement of people and goods across Papua and West Papua, Spirit Avia Sentosa (SAS) has begun operations with four aircraft to connect the central and southern part of the county's mountainous easternmost region.
SAS, owned by senior Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Panda Nababan, launched its first flight from Frans Kaisiepo Airport in Biak, West Papua, on Friday.
Biak Regent Thomas Ondi said the operation of the airline benefitted the regency in several ways. First, he said, more investors were expected to come to Biak, as it would improve the transportation system in Papua's remote areas.
'The flights are expected to also be able to revive Frans Kaisiepo Airport,' he said during the launch.
SAS' commissioner Panda said the presence of SAS was expected to be able to support President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's program to accelerate development in Papua, where poor infrastructure has long been one of the biggest problems.
'Our mission is to contribute to the development of Papua, not to make profits,' Panda said.
The four aircraft comprise a Caravan and three Twin Otter, which can carry both passengers and cargo.
The routes served by the aircraft connect Frans Kaisiepo Airport with pioneer airports in the Pegunungan Tengah area, namely Sugapa, Ilaga, Mulia, Enarotali, Wagete, Pogapa, Monamai, Bokondini, Kelila, Elelim, Karubaga, Tiom, Kobakma, Apalapsili, Kenyam, Jila, Potowai, Enduga and Dekai.
While in the southern part of Papua, SAS offers flights to Kimam, Wanam, Tanah Merah, Senggo, Kepi, Ewer, Mindiptana, Bade and the coastal region near Serui.
Managing director Kevin Audi Lesmana said the company would also work with the doctorShare non-profit organization to offer free medication services to people living in Papua's remote areas.
Papua councilor Carolus Bolly welcomed the operation of the airline in the region, saying it could help open access to remote areas, and expressing his hope that the aircraft were new.
'Many old aircraft are repainted to make them look new, but they are not. Please don't put people's safety at risk just because of business interests,' Carolus told The Jakarta Post.
The operation of the flight company, he said, was also expected to transport staple foods and other daily necessities for people in areas that could only be accessed by air.
'Logistics offices in Papua often complain about the limited aircraft capacity to carry rice. I hope SAS can also meet this demand,' he said.
The flights from Biak, he added, would make it easier for people in Papua's remote areas to access other regions of the country, as the airport in Biak was capable of accommodating large aircraft flying to other regions of Indonesia.
'People no longer have to go to Jayapura or Timika [before flying to other regions], because they now have an alternative to fly from Biak,' Carolus said.
He expressed his hope that the airline could in the future add more flights at affordable fares to serve more passengers.
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