Subject: East Timor Air rolls towards takeoff, eyes 717s

Air Transport Intelligence

April 23, 2002

East Timor Air rolls towards takeoff, eyes 717s

David Fullbrook


East Timor Air (ETA) now expects to begin operating in mid-May and is taking steps to launch services to Bali in Indonesia with Boeing 717s or Fokker 100s in 4-6 months.

"All indications are we will be up and running by the second week of May," ETA managing director Jerry Desousa says from Dili.

ETA is now working hard to smooth out administrative issues and await delivery of crucial paperwork including boarding passes and tickets.

Printers promise the work will be done within two weeks, says Desousa.

Darwin in Australia will be ETA's first destination. New Zealand's Vincent Aviation, which already shuttles between Dili and Darwin, will operate ETA's services using a Raytheon Beech 1900C.

Flights around East Timor using a Cessna Caravan and Rheims F406 are set to start in June, mainly serving UN officers, aid workers and soldiers.

Reservations will be done manually over the telephone. A link with SITA will follow if plans for Bali get off the ground.

Desousa will meet Indonesian officials and airline industry representatives in Jakarta later this week to lay the foundations for these services. Merpati, Indonesia's state-owned domestic carrier, now provides the only link to Bali from Dili. It is not expected to take the prospect of a competitor well.

Bali services are targeted to begin in 4-6 months using either two 717-200s or Fokker 100s on five-year dry leases, Desousa says. ETA has shelved plans to use Boeing 737-300s because Dili's 6,000ft (1,800m) runway is not long enough.

By the time flights to Bali and other destinations begin, the carrier may be running under a new name, livery and flag. Desousa plans to ask East Timorese in June to suggest alternatives that may better reflect the new country and help the airline carve out a distinctive image.

East Timor will finally be handed its independence on 20 May when the UN surrenders control to the country's new leaders. East Timor broke away from Indonesia following a referendum in favour of independence in August 1999.

UN officers have since been running the country.

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