Subject: Timor's first commercial airline launches inaugural flight

Courier Mail

Commercial airline launched From correspondents in Dili 19mar05

EAST TIMOR's first commercial airline launched its inaugural flight today serving a route connecting its capital, Dili, to Kupang, the main city on the Indonesian half of Timor island.

Since 2003, Indonesia's Merpati Airlines has been operating several routes from Dili to Indonesian cities while training the crew for East Timor's own airline, Kakoak Air.

Today, Kakoak began to operate one plane, a CASA 212, to fly up to 22 passengers to Kupang, the main city in western Timor, twice a week. The flight costs $US50 ($63) and takes 45 minutes.

East Timor voted to break away from Indonesia in 1999 after 24 years of often brutal rule. The tiny territory became an independent state in May 2002 after two-and-a-half years of UN administration.

However, because East Timor cannot yet use its own flag on the plane under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, Kakoak uses Merpati's colours.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao and his entourage took a brief flight over Dili before the plane went to Kupang.

"This flight will give East Timorese more freedom to visit their brothers in western Timor," the former freedom fighter said.

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