Bahamasair’s dinosaurs should be grounded

Dear Editor,

Seldom have we seen politicians over-react to a tempest in a tea cup like we have seen over Bahamasair and whether or not three of their aircraft can enter U.S. airspace.

It was a classic example of every man for himself as first the minister, then the chairman came out looking for someone to throw under the bus to assuage this made-up controversy.

It appeared, for a moment, that somebody had committed a catastrophic mistake by not installing modern communications equipment in three very old jets that are long overdue for the scrap yard.

Nobody wanted to cast focus on the fact that we are still flying aircraft that first rolled out of the Boeing factory 27 years ago. These planes are dinosaurs.

Missing from the politicians’ blame game was the fact that these planes were never designed to operate in the current air traffic control system which relies more on GPS satellites than the radars that were state-of-the-art when Bahamasair’s B737-500 planes were designed.

The Americans proposed a next generation navigation system that even they admit won’t be fully rolled out until 2025.

The big boys of the industry – American, Delta and United – all operate modern aircraft, none of which are caught up in the deadline that ensnared Bahamasair.

Newer aircraft have the modern equipment that Bahamasair has to now install to be compliant and operate these junkyard dogs to Miami.

So quick was Dionisio D’Aguilar and Tommy Turnquest to find someone to throw under the bus, that they didn’t bother to tell the public that almost 2,000 American registered aircraft are also affected by the ban and cannot operate into controlled U.S. airspace.

They also could have mentioned that the deadline in Canada for the same equipment is January 2022 and that certain non-compliant Air Canada planes had to take the long way around the U.S. to avoid U.S. airspace since January 1 or that the Canadian Air Force operates some jets that are deemed too old to be upgraded.

The U.S. gave them exemptions because of their overlapping airspace, much like we have.

To accommodate non-compliant aircraft, the US devised an ad-hoc solution.

At least one hour before they fly into controlled airspace, operators have to apply to the F.A.A. for a one-off authorization.

Because neither Miami, Ft. Lauderdale or Orlando are operating at capacity, the F.A.A. would have been more understanding of Bahamasair’s predicament.

This was not a steep hill for Bahamasair to climb.

If the politicians didn’t push their big foot into the ring, Bahamasair would have devised a work-around with none of us the wiser.

Worse case, they could have assigned these planes to Freeport, Exuma, Cuba and Haiti. Anywhere except Florida. The newer (but still old) B737-700 and the ATRs could have filled in the slack in this slow season.

It is understood that as they looked around for a scapegoat to blame, they saw the director of maintenance, Prince Storr, as a hapless victim to throw under the bus.

No Canadian heads rolled when they missed the deadline.

But let’s get real.

Bahamasair has always been micro-managed by its board of directors.

Tommy Turnquest and before him the former PLP chairman, Val Grimes, are serial interventionists who involve themselves in minutiae, to the grumbles of management.

Nobody believes that the board wasn’t in the loop on this and if the minister was left clueless he has to blame the board, not the management.

This matter is too technical to be sorted by politicians, including opposition leader Brave Davis, a former portfolio minister responsible for Bahamasair.

A cost-benefit analysis probably would have concluded that it was not economic to invest in navigation equipment that costs more than 25 percent of the plane’s value. Bahamasair would be better served to get rid of these old planes.

For starters, the companies that design and produce the navigation equipment were in no rush to make engineering drawings for old airplanes. So Bahamasair was immediately relegated to the bottom of the design and production lists.

So, it should not have come as a surprise that Bahamasair missed the deadline to comply.

The board of Bahamasair should modernize the fleet.

And stop looking for scapegoats.

– The Graduate

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