Private interests in concert with the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation are close to opening Bahamian pre-clearance facilities in Florida that will not only allow easier access for pilots flying into The Bahamas, but also allow greater participation for Bahamian aviators in the sector.
Andy Ingraham, who is part of the delegation setting up the facilities, told Guardian Business on Sunday that the option of pre-clearance will add “tremendous value” to the tourism sector by providing easier access to the Family Islands.
“You have a ton of opportunities out there, so this will allow people to explore those far-flung areas that are right in terms of low density, but are critical in terms of our growth,” Ingraham said.
Ingraham, who was also a panelist on a webinar to introduce the Byron Ferguson Foundation on Saturday, said many private aviators avoid The Bahamas because they are unsure about the rules and regulations of flying into the country. He said they therefore often opt to fly to the Florida Keys or Naples, Florida. Ingraham said the pre-clearance concept is a way to change that perception. He also explained that it will allow for greater participation in the Bahamian aviation sector for moving people from Florida fixed-base operators (FBOs) to local FBOs and small-island airports and airstrips.
“For Bahamian aviators, it is difficult to think there is access growing rapidly and Bahamians aren’t able to participate,” Ingraham said. “We’re charged and ready to do something about that.”
Director General of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority Charles Beneby, who also participated in the webinar, agreed that Bahamians have been “denied an opportunity to participate in the aviation industry in any meaningful way”.
Beneby said Bahamian aviators have traditionally gotten “the crumbs” while foreigners have been able to “reap all of the treasures of our industry”.
According to him, there must be an assurance that Bahamians who would reap the benefits of the pre-clearance facilities in Florida have the necessary documentation to do so.
“If Bahamian operators wanted to do commerce between The Bahamas and the United States, they would [have to get] necessary approvals, DOT (Department of Transport) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration),” said Beneby.
“What I’m suggesting is I’m not sure that we have paid enough attention to ensuring that they have complied with our own regulatory requirements.”