While I was vacationing in Samoa, I hade the opportunity to take a quick flight from Savai’i to ‘Upolu on a Polynesian Airways twin otter.
I arrived at Maota airport to find only two other people on my flight: A father and son who were on their way back to American Samoa via Apia (where I was going). I had some time to speak to the son about the airport. He told me that it had been closed for a while by the government citing safety issues. The runway was in poor condition and there were some issues with livestock roaming around on the airport property.
After a new runway and better fencing, the airport was opened. However it has never been as popular since the closing. I wonder if residents know its open again? Perhaps the cost is now prohibitive?
The airplane arrived (according to the Son in typical Polynesian Airlines tardiness) by first doing a low and over to inspect the runway and windsock.
The crew consisted of three people: two pilots and what I would call a “flight attendant, baggage handler, flight planner, and dispatcher” all rolled into one. All three came out and greeted us. I had a chance to talk to the pilots while the third employee was doing the weight and balance for the aircraft.
This particular aircraft was originally in service in Africa, until it got shot down. According to the pilot. Polynesian Airways decided to purchase it for refurbishment and put it in service. The pilot commended how well the Canadian airplane was built.
Once the weight and balance was complete I was handed a hand written boarding pass by the “third employee” and made my way to the aircraft.
I had a pretty good view of the flight deck from my seat. The avionics was mostly steam guages with a few GPSs, and a storm scope mixed in for good measure. I’m pretty sure the flight was filed as a VFR flight since it was only 15 and the weather was perfect.
After a quick briefing by the pilot: “the emergency exits are ‘here’ and life vests are under your seats’ we started taxiing down the runway. I noticed that this particular aircraft didn’t have any automatic prop sync.
We did a static take-off and levelled off at 2000′. The ride was smooth and not as loud as I would have expected.
All in all a great experience, and a wonderful way to see Samoa!