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Sky Chief Asks Regulators: Do You Want Us To Close?

(Photo: skybahamas.net)

(Photo: skybahamas.net)

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Sky Bahamas' principal last night challenged aviation regulators to clarify whether they want "to shut us down" as the airline "could be at the point of not coming back".

Captain Randy Butler told Tribune Business that legal action was among the options he is considering after the carrier remained grounded for a 16th day following Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) orders that it not fly given that a key permit has expired.

And he called on Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, and the Prime Minister, to intervene given that another Bahamian-owned company and its 63 employees were now perilously close to going out of business.

Captain Butler argued that there was "no reason why we should not have a renewed Air Operator Certificate (AOC)", which is the permit required for an airline to carry fare-paying passengers. The previous certificate expired on June 29, and the sector regulator sent Sky Bahamas a letter on July 8 warning that it should not continue flying without the AOC.

The Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority revealed at a meeting on July 9 that concerns had been raised by the findings of a recent safety inspection conducted on Sky Bahamas, but Captain Butler is challenging both the conclusions and processes followed by the regulator.

Alleging that the situation represented both a "personal and political" attack on him and Sky Bahamas, Captain disclosed last night that the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority had also failed to renew the AOC for Butler's Aviation, a charter company he also owns and operates.

Documents seen by Tribune Business show that the AOC for Butler's Aviation was renewed for three months in February 2019, instead of the normal 12-month extension usually granted to airline operators. With Butler's Aviation having "not operated in over a year", and still waiting for a new AOC, Captain Butler questioned whether the same problems he is now experiencing at Sky Bahamas were "a coincidence".

Asked by this newspaper whether he and Sky Bahamas would resort to legal action if the AOC situation is not soon resolved, he replied: "I will. Yes sir. We have a staff to make decisions on now as we have to pay them on the 30th and don't have the money because we are not operating.

"These people have to pay mortgages, food, electricity and gas. We are still being billed by the Government for Business Licence and everything else connected day-to-day that we do. Most of the employees are not coming in. We have a skeleton crew that is paying attention to the regulatory areas and dealing with customer calls.

"It's only because of my goodwill and resources that I've kept us going, and that's not translated into dollars and cents. At this point, and if they delay their response and everything, it could at the point of not coming back."

Captain Charles Beneby, the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority’s director-general, told Tribune Business earlier this week that he had not refused to renew Sky Bahamas' AOC and that the regulator was conducting a review to determine if it would be renewed.

But Captain Butler argued that "if he has not refused to renew the AOC, why has he not issued a new one". He added that the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority had also gone against normal protocol, which is for the previous AOC to remain in effect until the new one was granted provided it was not “suspended, revoked or terminated”, by ordering Sky Bahamas to suspend all services until the renewal was issued.

"The director-general is simply saying: 'Go home'," the Sky Bahamas chief added. "It would be better if they say to me: 'We've decided to shut you down. We don't want you in the business any more'. That would save time and we can get on with the business at haND.

"There's no reason why we should not have had a renewal of the AOC... I'm hoping the minister is considering the situation, and I'm hoping the Prime Minister already recognises that people may lose their jobs and another Bahamian company is going out of business."

Captain Butler, though, conceded that Mr D'Aguilar had previously told him to "sit with Civil Aviation and work this out", implying that he is - for the moment at least - not intending to intervene. "I said to him: 'I can't afford not to work this out'," he added.

Disclosing that the AOC wait at Butler's Aviation had cost him "hundreds of thousands of dollars", Captain Butler said his accountant was still "tallying" the financial fall-out for Sky Bahamas. That is likely to run into "a lot of money", he admitted, while the airline's competitors are "having a field day".

Captain Butler reiterated that he is still unable to properly address the regulator's concerns as it has not set out the reasons in writing for rejecting its AOC application, as required by the Civil Aviation Act 2016’s section 73.

And he questioned why Sky Bahamas was allowed to continue flying for a month following the safety inspection if the findings were so severe. Captain Butler said the inspection was conducted in May, and Sky Bahamas responded to the findings the same month, which he added largely dealt with flight crew records, licences and medical certificates.

Sky Bahamas and other airlines are also subject to constant surveillance year-round by the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority, with inspectors going on flights and attending training programmes. Captain Butler queried why no issues that could affect the AOC renewal were raised during that time, and why concerns were suddenly appearing now.

Sky Bahamas currently possesses two planes that operated routes to Exuma, Abaco and Cat Island. The airline has in recent months been battling a $500,000 damages award against it by the Supreme Court in favour of rival Southern Air, following a tarmac collision between their planes.

While the Court of Appeal restored Sky Bahamas' appeal against that award, it emerged last year that the airline owed the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) some $454,000 in passenger facility and security fees it collects from ticket prices on NAD's behalf.

Captain Butler at the time branded NAD's threat to terminate the airline's airport operating licence as "a non-issue", adding that the debt owed had been reduced and that such a situation was not uncommon with other airlines.

Tribune Business also reported this week that Captain Butler confirmed Sky Bahamas has been seeking a "strategic partner" to help take its business forward.

Comments

pileit 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Look, Hartnell, try some journalism. Here let me help you, the regulations of the land are PUBLIC RECORD, peruse the following to see if there is ANY language indicating that someone's AOC certification remains valid unless revoked, utter malarchy!

http://www.bcaa.gov.bs/site/schedules">http://www.bcaa.gov.bs/site/schedules

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DDK 3 months, 3 weeks ago

"The previous certificate EXPIRED on June 29".

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B_I_D___ 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Wise man once say...Be careful of the question you ask...for you may not get the answer you desire...

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Comrade Capt. Randy is just one more targeted native out islander the Imperialists red shirts regime are determined go great lengths to purge of status amongst populaces by destroying them financially. Just another example old UBP seek out to destroy tactic resurfaces, yes, true .... compared to OBAN's left unchecked wayward financial business ways ........

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proudloudandfnm 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Um you mean Capt Butler and DPM Turnquest????

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Rumours abound that another existing local airline (other than Bahamasair) is about to make application to the aviation authorities to acquire additional flight routes and scheduled flights to fill the vacuum that would be created by Sky Bahamas going out of business. That other airline is said to have at least one very influential investor involved in active politics.

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geostorm 3 months, 3 weeks ago

"Sky Bahamas currently possesses two planes that operated routes to Exuma, Abaco and Cat Island. The airline has in recent months been battling a $500,000 damages award against it by the Supreme Court in favour of rival Southern Air, following a tarmac collision between their planes.

While the Court of Appeal restored Sky Bahamas' appeal against that award, it emerged last year that the airline owed the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) some $454,000 in passenger facility and security fees it collects from ticket prices on NAD's behalf."

The above paragraphs are enough for me to draw a conclusion about the operation of this airline.

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The Independent airlines likes comrade Capt. Randy's SKY Bahamaland tend fly close being on time - unlike we colony's national flag carrier's slogan, "Bahamalandsair is a Christian airline cause only God he self knows when they're going to take off and land.".... yes, true .... If Imperialist red shirts had equally distributed fair share the annual multi-million dollar subsidies enable Bahamalandair keep its planes in air - Capt. Randy's Sky Bahamaland, could've, would've done paid off $450,000 owing government, yes, true ....Didn't Bahamaland just few months back not written write off as a total loss in many millions one their a planes that was left sitting at airport with no insurance coverage, yes, true ....and they blame talked so much and so loudly about BAMSI not having fire insurance coverage under PLP, yes, true ......

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pileit 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Tal, SHET your stoopid arse man. Go read the regulations and talk to people in aviation who know what goin on, you goin by the talks the dude who barkin to the public runnin on with, thats makes you foolish.....

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TalRussell 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Regardless ma comrade, they're 'facts' stooped in true shet about UBPism ways Imperialists red shirts messy political pettiness .... It's their evil just want people likes Capt. Randy, be portrayed as failures and end up Imperialists colonial debtors' prison .... why are you even attempting comparing Capt. Randy's legitimate bill $450,000 to ministry of education paying out $450,000 in unauthorized self bonuses....

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DDK 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The People have subsidized a losing Bahamasair, seemingly forever, creating an on-going unfair advantage over competing operators. Don't know about UBP, PLP and FNM but dem is da facts.

The UBP may be the longest defunct political party in history so well-remembered today! LOL!

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pileit 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Bahamasair? Big man talk airline! The Bahamas Government long supported a system of INTERNATIONAL airline subsidy and exemption, Delta, AA, United, exempting them from fees, taxes etc. presumably expecting to reap the rewards of a guaranteed flow of eager tourists. Bahamasair subsidies pale in comparison, and in fact when compared to what is poured into local government entities such as BPL with zero international competition, are minimal (not excusing or justifying their existence, btw, just pointing it out)

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concernedcitizen 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Bahamasair subsidies pale in comparison ,,you must be joking .Every year they get a minimum of 20 million from the treasury , they are grossly overstaffed , basically a tax payer job program . I think to date Bahamasair have cost the Bahamian public 500 million dollars .Delta , American are not exempt from any taxes and fees .Only two airlines had any concessions , Air Canada was paid 3 miilion a year by Sandals to help w Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma get going and Sunwing and the hotel in GB got some concessions to bring in guest there .Don,t let your foreign bias lead you to distort the facts .

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TheMadHatter 3 months, 3 weeks ago

" 'We don't want you in the business any more'. That would save time and we can get on with the business at hand".

Sometimes i think the only "business" that gets done in this country is "the business at hand." :-)

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sealice 3 months, 3 weeks ago

maybe and only if you clean the frickin terlits on ya planes...

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sealice 3 months, 3 weeks ago

and the entire situation is your mess created by your inaction - go get a job working for someone else....

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