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Pm Reassures Public Over Air Safety Record

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net RESPONDING to concerns about safety issues within the aviation industry, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday assured Parliament that the Bahamas' record demonstrates that a "satisfactory level" of safety is being met. Mr Ingraham was addressing concerns put forth by Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell regarding the safety of non-Bahamasair services and whether the proper measures were being taken and regulations adhered to. While confirming that allegations were reported by pilots of non-Bahamasair airline companies last April about working conditions and safety issues, Mr Ingraham said: "The Government is satisfied that the safety system checks and balances are adequately maintained by the Civil Aviation Department. "The safety record of the Bahamas aviation sector is a testament to this, but this record requires the continued support and cooperation of the flying public, pilots, mechanics, airline operators and regulators to ensure its continuing and continuos integrity." In response to questions raised by pilots regarding certain airlines' maintenance capabilities, Mr Ingraham said several maintenance inspections have been carried out by the Principal Maintenance Inspectors (PMI) from the Flight Standards Inspectorate (FSI) over the past few months and all deficiencies found were corrected. In order to modernise and strengthen the sector, Mr Ingraham said the Government has obtained a $50 million-loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to overhaul the Bahamian civil aviation industry. Under the IDB loan, he said "the government is set to undertake one of the more comprehensive and ambitious initiatives in our history to enhance aviation". This will improve air transportation systems, increase flights and airlift across the Bahamas, while modernising airports, the Prime Minister said. Further, he said an independent body will be established to investigate aviation incidents and accidents. Although labour-related issues between the operator and pilots do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Civil Aviation, Mr Ingraham also responded to inquires and allegations that pilots were fatigued as a result of being forced to work beyond their 14 hours of mandated duty. He said that during a meeting with the Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, pilots indicated they were fatigued because they were sometimes required to work beyond their duty times. However, Mr Ingraham said this is not normal practice as he was advised that most airline operators currently have operation specifications providing 10 flights in a 14 consecutive hour period. Mr Ingraham advised that pilots and other employees who feel that their working conditions are in violation of the Employment Act should file an official complaint with the Department of Labour.

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