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Crackdown may be near on illegal charters

The Department of Civil Aviation may be making progress in its attempt to crackdown on illegal charter operations.

Civil Aviation Director Pat Rolle confirmed toThe Nassau Guardianyesterday that the department has a possible lead on at least one pilot who may have been conducting unauthorized charter flights.

“Now we have a case that seems to be panning out pretty much in our favor because of some mistakes the operator made in making a commitment to the person,”Rolle said.

However, he stopped short of identifying the individual and stating what date the commitment was made. But Rolle said the matter is under investigation.

“That is pretty active so I don’t want to say anything else about that until we have finished that completely,”Rolle said.

For years, the department has been attempting to crackdown on the illegal flights that operate from Lynden Pindling International Airport and travel to various Family Islands.

The department recently stepped up its efforts following the October crash of a nine-seat Cessna.

The aircraft crashed shortly after take off from the Nassau airport. All nine men onboard were killed.

The flight was on its way to San Salvador where a homecoming celebration was planned

Family Island celebrations, such as regattas and homecomings, are money-making opportunities for both certified and uncertified charter operations.

The department is hoping to hold a meeting with all of the uncertified operators in a bid to educate them on how they could go through the process of becoming certified.

Rolle said since the department’s spot checks at least five pilots have inquired about how they can legalize their business.

“They are working with the staff at Flight Standards to see how we can get them organized as fully authorized AOC(air operator certificate)companies,”Rolle explained.

So far no citations or stop orders have been slapped on any of the pilots believed to be operating illegal charter operations.

Rolle said a meeting is planned with the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA)on the weekend to discuss how to pursue this matter in a more effective way heading into 2011

“They have got some ideas and they have formed a grouping that is assisting them because quite a bit of the illegal operations is also coming from the American side, and so we are thinking that we can jointly use our resources to sort of curb some of this,”Rolle said.

“The Department of Civil Aviation is pursuing this quite fervently. Even though we are pretty quiet about it we are still looking into it ensuring that the flying public is getting the best for what they are paying for.”

Officials have said the public must be aware that in the event of an incident involving injuries or even loss of life, there is no recourse or compensation as no insurance company would provide coverage for an illegitimate air charter operation.

Rolle toldThe Guardianthat the issue of unauthorized commercial air traffic came up at the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO)meeting earlier in the year.

“Their goal is to go out and reduce accident rates by some 50 to 60 percent in the year 2011. That in itself is a humongous task, but states have decided that we just can’t ignore this,”he said.

“And the 190-member states of ICAO have all declared that this will be their target for the next year and The Bahamas(has)joined into that.”

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