The regular commercial air service between the islands of present-day French Polynesia was born in|
1950, at the initiative of a handful of entrepreneurs who created A company operating a low-capacity
amphibious plane (7 seats), dissolved in 1953. In 1953, the Intercontinental Air Transport Company (or TAI),
takes control of this inter-island service, through the « Régie Aérienne Interinsulaire » (RAI), the Interinsular Aviation Board, under agreements with Air France.
RAI operates on behalf of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. It already owns a Grumman Mallard
and two Catalina seaplanes. On January 1st, 1958, the Régie became the « Réseau Aérienne Interinsulaire »,
the Interinsular Air Network (RAI) and purchased a Sunderland Bermuda to expand the network between
the islands of French Polynesia. This year 1958 marks the beginning of the history of AIR TAHITI. With the
opening of Tahiti Faa'a International Airport in 1960, an extensive program of runway construction is
initiated by the French State and the local government (4 are built during the 1960s, and 27 in the following
decade, for a total of 47 airports in 2018). In 1970, the RAI becomes Air Polynesie, a subsidiary of the French
international airline UTA. Nicknamed "Air Po" by the Polynesians, the company affirms its Polynesian
identity and sets up regular services throughout French Polynesia. Several aircrafts are put into
service including a DC 4, 2 Fokker, a Twin- Otter and two Britten Norman "Islander". In 1986, the former
UTA, (meanwhile absorbed by Air France) resells Air Polynésie's shares to local investors. This sale gives
birth in 1987 to the company "AIR TAHITI", in its current version. The new company wants to modernize
and in 1987 acquires its first ATR 42, marking the beginning of a long collaboration with the aeronautical
manufacturer ATR. In this philatelic issue, we can see the white livery of the ATRs chosen by the top
management for the launching of the airline in 1987.
The new "red" livery put into operation since 2014, is proposed in its new "tattooed" version, launched
in October 2017, and created by the students of the Center of Fine Arts & Crafts of French Polynesia.
We wish you a good philatelic flight on the wings of the company that connects our islands!