Air Tahiti

Air Tahiti
Air Tahiti Logo.jpg
IATA ICAO Callsign
HubsFaa'a International Airport (Papeete)
Fleet size14
HeadquartersTahiti, French Polynesia, France
Key peopleJames Estall (CEO)
Manate Vivish (General Manager)

Air Tahiti is a French airline company which operates in French Polynesia, France. Its main hub is Faa'a International Airport. It is the largest private employer in French Polynesia.[1]: 22 

Company history

Early Seaplane Operations

The company was founded in July 1950 by Jean Arbelot and Marcel Lasserre,[2]: 95  operating between Papeete, Raiatea, and Bora Bora[3] using a 7-seater seaplane, a Grumman Widgeon J-4F.

In 1951, the French Ministry for the Overseas purchased on behalf of the Territory a Grumman Mallard amphibian aircraft, which the airline was allowed to use.[2]: 95  In May 1951 it inaugurated a fortnightly mail service between Papeete and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, only for the first flight to be turned away due to concerns about Polio.[4] The route was discontinued in June 1952 when TEAL extended its service to Papeete.[5] The airline temporarily ceased all operations in July 1952 after a crash injured its only pilot,[6] but services resumed in April 1953 after an Australian pilot was recruited.[7] Gradually, Air Tahiti spread its wings to all the islands of French Polynesia. In 1953 the first landing in the Gambier archipelago was achieved.[2]: 95  In October 1953, the first flight to the Marquesas islands took place with a sea-landing at Taiohae / Nuku Hiva.


In July 1953 the Territory reallocated the Grumman Mallard to Régie Aérienne Interinsulaire (RAI, "interisland aviation board"), a subsidiary of Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux, which took over air transport in French Polynesia.[2]: 97  The Air Tahiti brand then disappeared. RAI acquired two Consolidated PBY Catalina seaplanes to expand links between the islands of French Polynesia.[8] Originally operating in an orange livery, these aircraft later adopted green and blue.[2]: 97  The network was expanded, and in 1955, the Austral archipelagos inaugurated seaplane service with the opening of routes to Tubuai and Raivavae.

In 1958 RAI rebranded as the Réseau Aérien Interinsulaire (Inter-Island Aviation Network).[2]: 97  It continued to operate seaplanes, and expanded its network to include the Tuamotus.[2]: 97  It also operated a Short Sandringham "Bermuda" flying boat connecting the main runway at Bora-Bora with Papeete.[3][9] The construction of Papeete's Faa'a International Airport in 1960 was followed by a vast construction program of runways across French Polynesia,[10] and RAI's fleet shifted away from seaplanes towards conventional aircraft.

Air Polynésie

In 1970, RAI rebranded again as Air Polynésie.[2]: 98  Nicknamed "Air Po" by Polynesians,[11] the company asserted more of its Polynesian identity and implemented regular services throughout French Polynesia and especially to the more remote islands. The airline had a "virtual monopoly" due to a convention with the territorial government.[10] Initially operating a Short Sandringham "Bermuda" flying boat, a Douglas DC-4 propliner and a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop, it later added a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander and two Fokker F27 Friendships.[11] It began operations to Huahine in April 1971.[12] In late 1984, faced with a need for new capital to purchase modern aircraft, it threatened to wind itself up unless a loan was guaranteed by the territorial government.[13]

Air Tahiti again

In 1985, the former UTA (by then absorbed by Air France) sold a majority of Air Polynesia shares, with 25% being given to the French Polynesian government and the remaining 45% sold to local investors.[1]: 13  In 1987 the airline was again rebranded as Air Tahiti, using a fleet of ATR 42 regional turboprop aircraft.[14] Between 1987 and 2007 it quadrupled its passenger-kilometres travelled, from 75 million to 315 million.[1]: 19 


Air Tahiti covers a network of 47 islands in French Polynesia and Cook Islands.

Society Islands

Tuamotu Archipelago

East Tuamotu-Gambier archipelago

Marquesas archipelago

Austral archipelago

Marquesas archipelago

Tuamotu archipelago

International destinations

Cook Islands


Air Tahiti ATR 72 F-OIQR at Bora Bora Airport

As of September 2018, the Air Tahiti fleet consists of:[15]

Air Tahiti fleet
Aircraft Number Passengers
ATR 42-600 2 48
ATR 72-600 7 78
Beechcraft King Air B200 3 8
de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter (DHC-6-300) 2 19
Total 14

Accidents and incidents

  • On April 18, 1991, Air Tahiti Flight 805 was on approach to Nuku Hiva Airport, when the aircraft, a Dornier 228, suffered an engine failure and attempted to ditch near the coast. 10 of the 20 occupants in the aircraft were killed.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "Une histoire du ciel polynésien / A history of the Polynesian skies: 1987- 2013: Air Tahiti by Christian Vernaudon" (PDF). Air Tahiti Magazine. No. 96. 2017. pp. 11–22. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Une histoire du ciel polynésien / A history of the Polynesian skies" (PDF). Air Tahiti Magazine. No. 94. 2017. pp. 90–98. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Tahiti at the Hour of Jets". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. XXXI, no. 11. 1 June 1961. pp. 111–115. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "SENT AWAY AGAIN Extraordinary Treatment of French Mail Plane in Cook Is". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. XXI, no. 11. 1 June 1951. p. 9. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "AIR TAHITI DISCONTINUES COOK IS. SERVICE". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. XXII, no. 12. 1 July 1952. p. 58. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Air Tahiti Temporarily Ceases". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. XXIII, no. 3. 1 October 1952. p. 98. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "AIR TAHITI OPERATING AGAIN". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. XXIII, no. 9. 1 April 1953. p. 43. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Fr. Oceania Air Service". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. XXV, no. 4. 1 November 1954. p. 154. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^, April 1, 1963 Transports Aeriens Intercontinentaux (TAI) system timetable, RAI flight schedules
  10. ^ a b "F. POLYNESIA A one way ticket to depopulation". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. 50, no. 7. 1 July 1979. pp. 44–45. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ a b "Air Polynésie" (in French). Air Tahiti. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  12. ^ "Huahine on the tourist beat". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. 42, no. 5. 1 May 1971. pp. 35–36. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "AIR POLYNESIE ISSUES ULTIMATUM". Pacific Islands Monthly. Vol. 55, no. 9. 1 September 1984. p. 9. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "AIR TAHITI SET FOR A BIG YEAR". Le Courrier Australien. 10 April 1987. p. 6. Retrieved 12 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ "Our fleet - Official website - AIR TAHITI".
  16. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Dornier 228-212 F-OHAB Nuku Hiva Airport (NHV)".

External links

  • Official Air Tahiti Website
  • Aircraft manufacturer ATR website
  • SEAC State Department of Civil Aviation Website
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