DCA closes Kili runway

This file photo of the Kili Island runway shows the entire airfield flooded from an ocean inundation event in 2015. Ocean flooding and rain have caused deterioration of the runway over time.

All flights to Kili Island were halted this week for an indefinite period of time by the Directorate of Civil Aviation based on safety concerns about the condition of the runway.

Anthony Paul, the DCA’s Senior Aviation Inspector/Operations, notified AMI’s Director of Flight Operations Captain Mael Watak on Tuesday this week that the DCA was temporarily closing Kili airfield “until all discrepancies are rectified.”

The closure represents a significant revenue hit to the national airline as Kili is AMI’s fourth leading destination in terms of passengers as well as forcing reliance on shipping for passengers and cargo to reach the isolated island.

Vice Speaker Peterson Jibas, who represents Kili in Nitijela, said “the question is will government finally fix it?” He said he’s raised concerns about the need for fixing the runway many times during Nitijela sessions.

The “discrepancies” alluded to by the DCA notice were explained by AMI Chief Pilot Captain Ngaaia Tioti. She said the three main concerns are “overgrown grass, potholes in the middle of the runway, and scattered small rocks.”

She said AMI has been advising authorities about their concern every time the flights go to Kili.

“During our recent flight into Kili on the 10th of November, we noticed that the runway surface was getting rougher (after the recent heavy rain),” said Tioti. Problems on Kili’s grass runway after heavy rain have been reported as a problem for many years.

“When we landed that day, we could feel the Dash 8 shaking and vibrating and could also hear noises from the nose wheel,” she said. “When we taxied out for our departure, we could see several potholes hidden amongst the tall grass. And during take-off, the Dash 8 again vibrated and shook even more.”

For safety reasons, AMI postponed the flight to Kili this week “to give them time to fix their runway by cutting the grass, clearing (small rocks from) the eastern side of the runway, and compacting the potholes evenly,” said Tioti.

She added that the potential damage to the Dash-8 from these runway conditions is of great concern.

The FY2020 audit of AMI shows that Kili ranked fourth in passenger usage after Majuro, Kwajalein and Jaluit.

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