Calls to clamp down on airline hackers

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff


EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd.


Tribune Staff Reporter


THE air charter industry could see more stringent regulations implemented in the coming months, as two Cabinet ministers called for sweeping changes for the sector in the wake of last week’s fatal plane crash in waters off Andros.

In a scathing rebuke of current regulations and oversight, Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar and Education Minister Jeffery Lloyd called for an end to sub-standard practices in the sector.

In interviews with reporters, the ministers said it was both shocking and reprehensible that the industry was allowed to run as is.

Last week’s tragedy claimed the lives of six people – including pilot, 45-year-old Darren Clarke.

In the wake of the devastating crash, many described Clarke as a “hacker.” The term is used when referring to a person providing transportation services at a reduced price without having the necessary licence to operate in the industry. 

Clarke was not licensed to run commercial flights nor operate multi-engine planes.

Mr D’Aguilar yesterday said he was shocked by what has been uncovered in recent days as it relates to procedures and policies that allow for pilots, such as Clarke, to work as “hackers”.

The Free Town MP said he has instructed Civil Aviation Authority Director General Charles Beneby to draft a policy document on how to best address the dilemma.

Mr D’Aguilar said the reality that the word “hacker” is so often used in the country’s aviation sector illustrates how serious the state of the country is in.

“So, I told (the director general), I empowered him, I said look, ‘if we need to change regulations in order to tighten this up, we should have a zero tolerance.’ And if that accident, that loss of life, which is a very sad event and devastating, if we don’t attempt to change the paradigm so that when a Bahamian or a flying passenger gets on a plane they can rest assured that plane has been checked for air-worthiness and that pilot has the appropriate licence before they get on that plane, then we have failed in our mandate.

“That is what we need to do, and I don’t see any reason why we should not be able to do it.

“Let’s change what we need to change. Let’s empower who we need to empower. Let’s make it happen. It just seems straight forward to me, I don’t understand what the issue is here.

“Why hasn’t it been done? So that is what I am going to do. What is most important is life. That is the most important thing that we have. Yes we have an economy, but we are not going to compromise our safety.

“We are not going to comprise the loss of life just to make a dollar; that isn’t right. If you go to them families down in Andros who have lost a loved one, they’re asking why and they are turning to the government, how could we as a people have prevented this?

“And that is the most important thing. If you got to go and get your licence, then go get it. If you got to have your plane checked, then have it checked. If you got to go do the required maintenance then do the required maintenance. That is the cost of doing business, and if you got to raise your rates to do that, then raise your rates. But it is more important that it is safe than not. So let’s do what we got to do,” Mr D’Aguilar insisted.

Meanwhile, reflecting on last week’s tragedy, Mr Lloyd said he does not care whose toes are mashed or egos assaulted – the situation mandates the government take a look at “the rogue circumstances” that exist in the sector.

“Let’s be frank about this. It is out of control. It is poorly regulated,” Mr Lloyd said yesterday. “We recognise and accept that the agency responsible for regulation and oversight is under resourced. We accept that. But the decline that we need to bring to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and this environment needs to be expressed in all subdivisions of our government; in government life, in national life and this airline/aviation industry is no less than one such area.”

Asked if he had communicated his sentiments to his Cabinet colleagues, the South Beach MP stated: “Well, the Cabinet has not had the opportunity yet to discuss this, but when that opportunity comes forth, then, of course. The Cabinet is well aware of what we need to do.”

Mr Lloyd later added: “We have come to the offices of the Cabinet, the prime minister and the government on the theme of transformation, and that transformation speaks to doing things the way it ought to be done. And stop allowing slackness and indiscipline, and this unregulated culture that we have had here in these last 50 or more years of our country.”

Mr Lloyd said based on the information received to date, there exists a certain “reluctance” to make the necessary changes in the sector, a reluctance, he said, the Minnis administration had the political will to address.

“…. The unfortunate thing is, when we delay, people’s lives are placed at risk. We don’t have any time to pander to egos . . . in the minds and hearts of our Bahamian people. This must be a society of discipline and order and respect, regulation and commitment.”

Last week’s crash was the first fatal one in the Bahamas in a year and a half.

However, a number of non-fatal crashes have taken place over the years, including several recently. Aviation officials are in the process of investigating “three non-fatal crashes” in recent weeks.


ohdrap4 6 years, 1 month ago

sufficient hot air to run a balloon charter nationwide


K4C 6 years, 1 month ago

one has to be concerned by this lack of proper licencing verification one question who oversees verification of pilots credentials for the major airlines ?


TalRussell 6 years, 1 month ago

Ma Comrade Bradda Dionisio James has so many promises 'clamp downs everything under his domain his ministry - including threatening to fly off to Washington to read Riot Act to the US state department's travel alert section that he's thinking about 'privatizing' all the strategic planing floating around up his head... so much his head getting ready blow off he shoulders...the hair is all grandpa white from smoke coming out he brain.


OldFort2012 6 years, 1 month ago

"The agency is under resourced"....yeah, it is a really, really difficult job. You have to be able to read. For that you need at least 300 civil servants.

You have one database with licensed pilots, you have another database with planes and before they are allowed to take off from any airport, you check the two against the passenger manifest.

Unless all three check off, no take off.

It is so complicated, you need at least 200 foreign consultants to come in and set it up at a cost of at least $1bn.

What a clown show.


TalRussell 6 years, 1 month ago

Ma Comrade Bradda OldFort2012, yet whilst unlicensed flying machines are taking-off with paying passengers - the Imperial red cabinet refused to grant Capt.Bran McCartney a license to take to the air with his done purchased and mechanically sound flying machine under all the paying passenger carrying rules and regulations. The illegal operators are taking-off right under noses aviation officials.


ThisIsOurs 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm really confused by the announcement of the trip to Singapore to find out "what we need to do". The local IT community could tell them what needs to be done. This is why I'm really skeptical about the commercial enterprises bill. There was never any effort made to determine what skill existed locally. There are no name technology or biomedical plants coming, if they do I'll eat my hat, but I'll need hot sauce and ketchup.


sheeprunner12 6 years, 1 month ago

When will Jeff Lloyd stop meddling in other Ministries and address the ass-backwards public education system???????


joeblow 6 years, 1 month ago

Most government ministries are run by knee jerk reactions. The scarcity of flights to some islands requires these charters, but they must be properly regulated, aircraft maintained, flight plans filed etc. This is an easy problem to fix, but somehow the govt will complicate it!


TalRussell 6 years, 1 month ago

Ma Comrade Bradda Joeblow, lights to guide planes in when there are no stationary runway lights at island airports -quickly get lighted, once you've lined up vehicles with their headlights on light runway for the approaching pilot.


B_I_D___ 6 years, 1 month ago

“The licence that he has is for private,” Ms Miller said yesterday. “You know he flew a private airline, he wasn’t flying commercial, so he wanted to fly commercial also so I think it’s something else he needed in order to get certification for that because he couldn’t jump into that.”

This is the mentality we are up against...people do not understand the law, do what they please, and sadly, get away with it, because nothing is enforced...


BahamaRed 6 years, 1 month ago

At the end of the day the ultimate blame rests with the government agencies that don't regulate air travel between the family islands.

So now that we have a tragic accident people want to point fingers and blame the pilot.

No, blame the government- PLP OR FNM they are both to blame. Stop the slackness that's so prevalent in this country.

Whether jitney drivers or unlicensed pilots it boils down the the same thing SLACKNESS THAT NEEDS TO BE REGULATED.


Economist 6 years, 1 month ago

Just try to get the evidence against the hackers and see how far you get. Western Air has daily flights out of Andros.

Ask yourself why these passengers did not fly Western?

Probably Western was more expensive because it has to meet maintenance requirements, insurance requirements, pay license fees, pay crew a proper wage, and so on.

Maybe we need to remind ourselves that there is a life threatening risk to flying with unlicensed and unregulated pilots and planes. These are not airlines as you have to be licensed to be an airline.

May also find that your life insurance is not valid if you fly with a hacker. So don't expect your life insurance policy to pay out.


sheeprunner12 6 years, 1 month ago

Yep ........... Bahamians like to make stupid decisions and then cry wolf when things mess up ......... This level of slackness MUST stop!!!! .......... no proper license means that it is an illegal business (pure and simple) ...... Be they street vendors, taxi hackers, boat operators, pilots, contractors etc.


Kalikgold 6 years, 1 month ago

nope not the case. Western Air is usually delayed, late and simply unreliable.

To your point about life threatening, flying on the whole is life threatening. I know personally a few of the charter pilots (Fred, Henny, Warren etc.) who are very skilled, qualified and take the job very seriously.

Alot of you are making assumptions. Stop


sheeprunner12 6 years, 1 month ago

The pilot is being hailed as a "great Androsian" ........ You would have sworn that he was a crack fighter pilot who was rescuing desperate Vietnam soldiers when this plane crashed ...... And to top it off, the whole damn Cabinet is flying free to Andros for a memorial service for the victims ..... this is overkill - second only to Minnis and his "tears for Dominica" ........ Meanwhile the whole damn country south of Exuma is literally dying from economic stagnation and lack of investment ........... There is NO crying in Responsible Government ........ This country is going to hell in a hand-basket because the leaders are just caught up in "looking good" and "sweet-talking".


Socrates 6 years, 1 month ago

random checks is how the business operates.. how you think they catch pilots who were drinking too much just when they get to the airport? you need to offer bounties for people to turn folks in.. you need big fines and seizure of aircraft to drive the point home.. you need to charge the folks who paid to fly like they do the guys they catch on the corner trying to buy dope or solicit a prostitute.. lots can be done and laws can be passed to make thesr things stick, but at the end of the day, if no enforcement, then forget it. its scary enough flying bahamasair, dont know how folks risk themselves with these other guys..


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