|April 11, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA MEETS WITH FAA OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS U.S. AIRSPACE SURROUNDING AMERICAN SAMOA|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced today that he met with FAA officials to discuss the International
Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) recent action to reassign a portion
of the Flight Information Region (FIR) airspace from Fiji to New Zealand.
“There has been a great deal of misinformation and speculation surrounding this issue,” Congressman Faleomavaega said, “and I want to assure the public that the U.S. airspace surrounding American Samoa is not in jeopardy of being controlled by a foreign nation.”
“However, I believe it is important for the public to understand the difference between sovereign airspace and international airspace. First of all, all sovereign airspace, including U.S. airspace claimed through American Samoa, is considered the airspace above the State (or Nation) and 12 miles offshore. International airspace is that portion of airspace outside sovereign airspace.”
“In 1944, the ICAO was created. Although it is a separate organization, the ICAO is considered a part of the United Nations. The United States is a member of the ICAO. The ICAO determines how nations will provide air traffic control services in international airspace,” the Congressman said. “The ICAO bases its decision on the ability of the chosen nation to provide the best service in that area.”
“For more than a decade, Fiji has been delegated by ICAO with the authority to provide air traffic control services in the airspace around the sovereign airspace of Samoa and the U.S. airspace claimed through American Samoa. This came about by a multilateral agreement among Fiji, Samoa and the United States. Fiji has been involved because ICAO had delegated to Fiji the authority to provide this air traffic control,” Faleomavaega said.
“The ICAO is now proposing to reassign this authority from Fiji to New Zealand. This is only an administrative change related to international airspace and poses no threat to our sovereign airspace,” the Congressman continued. “However, a delegation is scheduled to meet in Fiji on April 29, 2002 to discuss the matter in further detail. I have asked the FAA to invite Governor Sunia and other ASG officials to this meeting so that they can be fully informed about this matter.”
“It is also important to understand that in accordance with a multilateral agreement among Fiji, Samoa, and the U.S. (in which American Samoa was represented by the U.S. through the FAA), Samoa gave the U.S. the authority to control aircraft in Samoan sovereign airspace. When the ICAO agreement to re-delegate authority from Fiji to New Zealand takes effect in August, the agreement that has been in place between Fiji, Samoa, and the U.S. will also have to be renegotiated,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“It is my understanding that Samoa now wants to reclaim its airspace and this may mean that the U.S. will no longer have the authority to control aircraft in Samoan sovereign airspace,” Faleomavaega continued. “This may also mean that Samoa wants to charge us fees and, in turn, we may want to charge Samoa. Whatever the outcome, I believe our local leaders should have a voice in these negotiations and I have made this clear to the FAA. FAA officials have assured me that they will work more closely with our local leaders on this and other issues.”
“As these negotiations move forward, I have asked FAA officials to ensure that the Swains islands are included as part of U.S. sovereign airspace. I have also been assured that flights operating among the American Samoa islands will remain under FAA control. This means that our local airlines will not pay fees to New Zealand for flights operating between Tutuila and Manu’a,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “This also means that the U.S. military will not be subjected to any fees for operating flights in and out of American Samoa.”
“I am also pleased to report that the FAA is moving towards a firm commitment of appropriating $13 million for the construction of a new tower at the Pago Pago International Airport,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Although the details are not yet final, we have reached an agreement to work together to secure the funds necessary to improve the Pago Pago International airport. This is especially important since we have now extended our runway to 10,000 feet which puts American Samoa’s runway on the same level as any major international airport.”
“I want to thank Mr. John Hancock, Deputy Director of the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of International Aviation, Mr. Drazen Gardilcic, Deputy Manager, FAA, International Air Traffic Office, and Ms. Leslie McCormick, Acting Deputy Manager, FAA, ATS International Staff, for their dedication and commitment to the Territory. The people of American Samoa can feel confident that as we move forward in the ICAO negotiations that the interests of American Samoa will be protected.”
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