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ARKIB : 17/10/2001

MAS still evaluating commercial flights on polar routes

PETALING JAYA Oct 16 - Malaysia Airlines would not immediately undertake commercial flights over Polar routes although it had successfully flown one of the routes, it was announced today.

"More feasibility studies have to be done," Mohd Nawawi Awang, the airline's senior manager of flight operations, told a media briefing here.

He said a new market study would enable Malaysia Airlines to have better visibility of new network opportunities to North America.

Malaysia Airlines was the first Asian airline to successfully fly a twin-engine aircraft on one of the four newly-opened Polar routes.

The journey took place when the national carrier took delivery of its 13th Boeing 777 from aircraft manufacturer Boeing in Seattle on April 26 this year.

Under the command of Capt Norudin Abdul Majid, the aircraft took 18 hours and two minutes to travel from Seattle to Kuala Lumpur on Polar Route 2, which spans across Canada, the North Pole, Russia and Mongolia. Polar Route 2 was officially declared open on Feb 1 this year.

The four Polar routes had been officially opened and scheduled flights had already been started by some airlines.

"A non-stop journey requires ultra-long range aircraft. At present, we will use this route only for flight delivery. We are not quite ready for commercial flights," he said.

But fundamentally, he said each Boeing aircraft has all the capability for Polar routes.

However, he said some features needed to be added.

Capt Nawawi said analyses had proven that significant reductions in flight time and fuel can be obtained during certain periods of the year.

He said the great circle route from South Asia to North America was one of the key markets, not only for airlines but also aircraft manufacturers.

"The route does not cross the near-empty Pacific Ocean but rather tracks up to the East Asian coast, then it goes down to North America via the Russian and Alaskan polar regions."

Capt Nawawi said Malaysia Airlines took advantage of the delivery flight in April to undertake a Polar Proving Training as it was a requirement before any schedule operation and also since the routes are no longer considered temporary or exploratory.

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