By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A troubled Bahamian airline prevented from flying for over five months has obtained a Supreme Court injunction to block a former partner selling its assets.
Sky Bahamas, through an ex-parte application where only its attorneys were present, persuaded Justice Keith Thompson to bar AOG Maintenance Company from denying it the ability to “access and remove its assets contained at the aircraft maintenance hangar situated on premises belonging to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA)”.
The December 18, 2019, injunction, a copy of which has been obtained by Tribune Business, also “restrains” AOG Maintenance Company “from selling the assets” of Sky Bahamas “including but not limited to aircraft engines, propellers and gears contained inside the said maintenance hangars”.
Finally, the Supreme Court Order also prevents AOG Maintenance Company “from interfering with” the airline’s “business operations” and assets located at the LPIA maintenance hangar.
Captain Randy Butler, Sky Bahamas’ president and chief executive, told this newspaper he sought the injunction after the airline was “locked out of” the maintenance hangar that had been the subject of a joint venture partnership with AOG Maintenance Company.
“We heard they were about to sell that stuff,” Captain Butler added of the airline’s property still inside the hangar. “The court issued an injunction to give us access and stop them selling any of our stuff.”
This is not the first time Sky Bahamas and AOG Maintenance Company have clashed since the former was ordered to stop flying by the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority on July 8, with the industry regulator subsequently refusing to renew its air operator certificate (AOC) that was required to carry fee-paying passengers.
AOG Maintenance Company, in late August, announced that it had evicted Sky Bahamas from its corporate offices, with a note posted on the door directing all inquiries to two Glinton, Sweeting & O’Brien attorneys, Roy Sweeting and Giahna Soles-Hunt.
“Effective Saturday, August 17, 2019, the previous tenant of these premises, Sky Bahamas Airlines, has been evicted and the premises have been secured and reoccupied by the owner, AOG Maintenance Company. The contents of the premises are presently destrained for rent,” the notice said.
“Access to, and entry upon these premises for any reason by any person is forbidden save with the express permission of AOG Maintenance Company... Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Any attempted sale of the aircraft parts contained in the LPIA hangar would likely be to recover debts that AOG Maintenance Company believes Sky Bahamas owes it following its regulatory troubles, which sent the Bahamian-owned carrier into a financial tailspin that effectively forced it to shut down.
Captain Butler yesterday told Tribune Business it was “still a mystery to me” why the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority had refused to renew Sky Bahamas’ AOC, having in the past alleged he was being victimised.
He indicated yesterday that all options remain available in resolving the dispute with the regulator, saying it was “best to sit down at the table and talk. All things are open and continue to be open”.
The Sky Bahamas chief told Tribune Business in early October that the carrier’s shut-down had forced him to incur costs worth $4.2m and “counting”, with the airline existing as a company in name, and on paper, only.
“We have to go through the system. The goal is the system is supposed to self-correct. If the Board finds there is no cause they’ll self-correct. But to self-correct after three months, what’s that do for you?” he said then.
“We would have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, your reputation is on the line, and we’ve gone three months down the road and the Board finds no cause. What do you do? Staff have gone home, creditors are calling on you, my partners in the hangar operations are impacted, my US operations are impacted, my insurance is impacted and my group medical insurance impacted.
“Everything has been impacted by a decision, finding that has no merit. I must now sit and wait for the Board to make a decision while lives have been impacted.
Asked how much his battle with the BCAA has cost, Captain Butler replied: “So far we’re north of $4.2m and the costs have not stopped. It’s continuing.” Reiterating that Sky Bahamas has “complied with any and all inspections”, he added that there were no legal issues outstanding while any and all adverse findings had been dealt with “way before” the AOC renewal date.
The BCAA’s decision not to renew Sky Bahamas’ AOC was based on the section in its schedules that permits it to deny such an application on the basis that “the applicant is not properly or adequately equipped, or is not able to conduct safe operations in commercial air transport”.
Captain Charles Beneby, the BCAA’s director-general, issued a September 19, 2019, notice giving Sky Bahamas some 14 days to appeal the regulator’s decision not to renew the airline’s AOC.
“The Civil Aviation Authority of The Bahamas hereby denies Sky Bahamas application for an Air Operator Certificate, as it has determined in all the considered circumstances and communications between the Authority and the applicant’s accountable manager (Captain Butler) and its attorney that, pursuant to schedule 12.025 (b) (1) that Sky Bahamas Airlines is not properly or adequately equipped or able to conduct safe operations in commercial air transport,” the notice, signed by Captain Beneby, states.