Freedom Air now has another plane at its disposal. Joaquin “Kin” Flores president and general manager of Aviation Services Ltd. dba Freedom Air and South Pacific Express said the company purchased the 36-seater Shorts 360 or SD3-60 — a British plane manufactured in Belfast Northern Ireland by Short Bros. Ltd. To allow for room and functionality Freedom Air configures the plane to accommodate 30 seats.

The newly-purchased Freedom Air SD3-60 plane sits in the Freedom Air Tiyan hangar on July 5 as crews work to upgrade the aircraft to meet federal standards.

According to Flores the company was searching for parts and instead found an entire plane to purchase. “We were looking for parts but we were able to buy this plane in Greece ” Flores said.

Flores told the Journal the plane flew into Guam on June 29 and the mechanics have started work on upgrading the aircraft to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards. “Because the plane is a foreign registered aircraft we have to conform to FAA standards — that’s installing a bulletproof door that costs more than $100 000 upgrading the radios and other upgrades ” he said.

Flores would not disclose the exact amount invested to purchase the aircraft. Flores said “It’s close to a million.” He said “Just to fly to Guam from Greece it costs about $50 000. That’s including the cost of fuel and crew.”

Freedom Air has two Cessnas that are four-seaters and one Cessna with eight seats. Freedom Air also has five Piper Cherokees with a single engine that accommodates seven-seats one twin-engine Piper Navajo that is an eight-seater and an Aztec twin-engine six-seater. The airline also has two twin-engine Shorts 360s [SD3-60] and one twin-engine Shorts 330 [SD3-30] freighter that can also accommodate 30 passengers.

According to Flores Aviation Services Ltd. branched out into American Samoa through South Pacific Express in December 2005. Flores said there are three Shorts 360s in American Samoa. He said South Pacific Express also bought a plane. “Our partners in American Samoa purchased a plane I think through a bank auction that PIA [Pacific Island Aviation] owned. That plane is still sitting in Saipan.”

Joaquin "Kin" Flores president and general manager of Freedom Air in the cockpit of the newly-acquired shorts 360 on July 5.

Flores said the plane purchased in Greece was not bought in reaction to the announcement of Cape Air’s pullout from Rota. “We didn’t buy this plane because of Cape Air. It was always in our plans to buy additional planes. We were planning this since December ” he said.

Flores told the Journal that the current flight schedule will remain and that Freedom Air was not planning additional flights in its Guam Rota and Saipan route. “We’re flying about 120 seats a day. Our load factor is roughly 50%… and that’s about industry average ” he said.

At the time this story was going to press a Freedom Air Shorts 360 just completed maintenance. “We worked from seven in the evening to about 4 p.m. the following day. We need an additional plane to allow us to conduct maintenance.”

The additional plane will also allow Freedom Air to accommodate charter flights during normal operating hours. “It will also help us during peak seasons such as Rota fiesta.”

Freedom Air Flores said is committed to servicing its local passengers “We have the plane. You have the money… we’ll take you.” Freedom Air started almost 32 years ago and continues to do business in the Marianas. “We are a certified flag carrier. We’re able to fly passengers in small and big planes and we received our certification back in November 1974 ” Flores said. “If everything quits we’ll still be around.”

Flores doesn’t rule out other potential avenues for growing the business. “There are possible opportunities in the region. We can get contracts ” he said. Flores said he gets requests for charters to the Marshall islands Palau and Papua New Guinea. MBJ