EDITOR, The Tribune.
THIS TIME, next week a new Government of the Bahamas will have been elected.
Whomever is victorious, we plead that issues with Lynden Pindling International Airport be addressed without further delay. We will soon be the proud owners of two world class buildings at our airport terminal. The average visitor and fellow Bahamian who travels by air has no clue that the buildings may be new and impressive but the infrastructure that makes the Air Traffic system actually work correctly has long corroded away.
Since I can remember, going back in to the 1980s, the Air Traffic Controllers have expressed their woes about the ancient, out of date, non-functional equipment that they have to cope with on a daily basis.
We have heard during recent holiday periods how their demands for improved conditions (like air conditioning in the Tower during the height of our summers!) and pay scales that forced them in to a "work to rule" operation that affected over 800 aircraft manoeuvres a day coming to a near standstill.
We as commercial pilots had an emergency meeting at the airport with leading members of ATC pleading with them not to cripple our businesses over these critical periods. They expressed that their pleas to the Minister "had fallen on deaf ears" for decades and promised to work closer with us.
The Bahamas has been a leading destination for years now and airlines have made every effort to accommodate the volume of tourism that wishes to grace our shores. Having their operations brought to a standstill creates unbelievable amounts of repercussion through the industries related with our number one product in this country, tourism.
Yesterday, the radar system at our international airport failed yet again. Our International Airport becomes a house of cards.
In minutes, all air traffic on the airport facility came to a grinding halt. When this kind of failure happens the Air Traffic Controllers are required to implement different more stringent rules for the safety of all aircraft both arriving and departing.
Yesterday, when I was flying there were airliners that had sat on the ramp with full loads of passengers for over two hours.
My aircraft began over heating and had to be shut down as there were 24 aircraft in a queue for taxi to the runway.
In 20 minutes of sitting on the ramp, none of us could see any aircraft even departing, not even local charter operators operating until "visual flight rules" were allowed to leave. There was complete failure on the ground.The results of our inadequate Air Traffic infrastructure are catastrophic.
Airlines face fines for keeping their passengers onboard for undue delay, copious amounts of fuel from all operations are wasted, schedules become non-existent any more, passenger connections are lost, local charter operations are fractured for the rest of the day and so falls the house of cards.
Added to this, the incredible frustration that must be felt from the professionals in Air Traffic who have had to deal with this situation for decades. Their capabilities are to be admired although when they hindered our operations with work-to-rule there were times when we were not so understanding. I have to be the smallest operation in the Bahamas, if it cripples me when the infrastructure fails then only God knows what all my compadres must be going through and the losses they have suffered. So I will be "the mouse that roared" and ask for this to come to press for our Bahamian public to be enlightened and somebody to finally act?
Bottom line is that the new Government of the Bahamas has to address this problem immediately. You can't give us beautiful houses such as Baha Mar and the International Airport, spending all that money, without fixing the "plumbing" inside that has corroded beyond repair!
CAPT. P HARDING
May 3, 2012.