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Growing up in Manu’a sets man on track to seeing the world — as a pilot

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The lack of reliable air services between Tutuila and the Manu’a islands is the drive that put Talisau Lincoln Moliga on track to becoming a pilot.

 “The main motivation for me to pursue a pilot career was so I can go back home and help our people with air travel between Pago and Manu’a as we currently don’t have [reliable] local services,” says Moliga in response to Samoa News questions via email.

Moliga was born and raised in American Samoa. He is the son of High Talking Chief and Manu’atele Senator Malaepule Fuega and Moya Yandall Moliga, from the villages Vaisala Savaii, Atu’u, Ili’ili and Manu’atele.

He started his pilot career after serving in the US Army in 2016. “I’ve been a pilot for 7 years now with various pilot jobs.

“I prayed to God for his guidance on how I should pursue this [becoming a pilot]. As a Manu’a resident, I know first how important it is to have reliable air services for our people,” Moliga said.

Asked whether this was his dream job, Moliga had this to say.

 “When I was a child traveling between Manu’a airports and Pago, I was always mesmerized by the pilots doing their jobs safely in sometimes rough flying conditions.

 “I didn’t see it as a dream job, but as a challenge to myself to do something that I didn’t think I could attain.

“I am living proof that any child of American Samoa can pursue any dream job they want if they are committed,” he told Samoa News.

And then, Moliga was hired by Hawaiian Airlines back in September 2022 after going through their pilot interview process.

He piloted the flight that arrived on Sunday evening at the Pago Pago International Airport.

 “With Hawaiian Airlines and other legacy airlines, certain requirements and pilot experiences must be met to be considered for hire.

 “I thank God for the blessing to do this job. Although, I’ll say being a pilot at Hawaiian Airlines is a dream job.

 “Being that it’s the only connection our people have to the outside world.

“I’ve been away from home too long, so it is nice to be able to see our people’s smiling faces, especially friends and family as they travel.

“I am where I believe God wants me to be of service to our people.”

Moliga also commented on the many challenges to flying.

 “We do a lot of behind the scene jobs to ensure that every flight will be safe.

 “Not only just pilots, but all airline employees go through rigorous training to ensure the safe conduct of flight.

 “You plan for a smooth flight, but you are always prepared if things don’t go as planned. 

“We must be healthy, mentally sharp, and be the best subject matter expert of our profession.

 “Pilots are some of the most professional people out there, but in order to be that, we are always constantly learning and training to better our skills.

“You never stop learning,” he said.

Moliga holds a Bachelor of Science in Flight Operations from the University of Dubuque; a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Missouri and an Associate of Arts in General Studies. He was a commissioned US Army 2nd Lieutenant, at Wentworth Military Academy.

He attended Lupelele and Olosega Elementary School and Faga’itua and Tafuna High School; the latter from which he graduated in 2003.

After serving in the US Armed Forces in 2016, Moliga was a flight instructor from 2019- 2021 and went on to be a first Officer Pilot for SkyWest Airlines between 2020- 2022. Last year he made the move to become a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines.

He holds, licenses for Airline Pilot; Airplane Flight Instructor; Multi Engine, Single Engine and Instrument Flight Instructor and Commercial Helicopter Pilot.

While serving in the military, Moliga served a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan and he is a recipient of a Order of Saint George Bronze Medallion; Bronze Star Medal, Afghanistan 2012; Combat Action Badge, Afghanistan 2012; Combat Infantryman Badge, Iraq 2005 (Charlie Company, 100 BN-442 INF American Samoa); a distinguished Military Graduate, ROTC, University of Central Missouri 2010 and also a recipient of the George C. Marshall Award, US. ARMY 2008.

According to Moliga the highlight of his job is when he meets Samoan people on flights and interacts with them.

 “Sometimes they would be surprised to see a Samoan pilot in the mainland speaking Samoan to them on a flight.

 “Many would ask about how to be a pilot, or how they can get their sons/ daughter involved in aviation.

 “And that is where the best highlight of my job comes in; to be able to influence that one kid back home in Samoa that has always wondered about aviation.

He talked about flying with a great Hawaiian Airlines captain, a son of Samoa, Captain Jimmie Peckenpaugh.

 “I got to learn from him as well and it was an honor to have an all Samoan pilot crew flying Hawaiian Airlines. That was a great highlight for my job,” he told Samoa News via email.

Moliga hopes that in this capacity he can serve and give back to our community.

“I come from humble beginnings, and I will never forget that. I thank my parents and all my family for their teachings and my upbringing in the church, family, and village.”

“As well as to my wife and children for believing in me. I am a product of American Samoa and I am proud of that,” he said.

Moliga dedicated his journey to his late grandma, Migao Malolo Yandall of Vaisala Savai’i and Atu’u.

 “I will always cherish your memory and your love.”

He and his wife Jenna Moliga have three children — Gabriel, Leilani, and Samuel.

He grew up in the CCCAS Talalelei O Le Fa’aolataga church in Tafuna.