Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that he does not know when the additional restrictions on the airspace over Grand Bahama and Abaco will be lifted.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, many have complained of increased difficulty getting aid and transport onto the islands due to red tape.
“The airspace is enormously busy,” said D’Aguilar.
“And so, Civil Aviation is trying to ensure that it remains safe. Certainly, persons who are conducting search and recovery – we’ve gone from rescue to search and recovery – we want to ensure that they have a safe environment to operate in. Sometimes it’s frustrating for people, because everybody, you know, they’re sitting in the states especially, and they want to jump in their plane and fly. And, so, we are having to cause them to apply to Civil Aviation for an authorization code to come into the airspace.”
D’Aguilar said the restrictions were requested by American authorities who were conducting a number of operations on the islands.
“That was primarily at the behest of the Americans who were doing a lot of the search and recovery flights,” he said.
“They were the ones who insisted that we put some control over it, and, so, we have. But we’re looking as things slow down, and we don’t know, having never been through one of these before, when the slowdown is going to occur. But certainly, right now, there is a process, and we’re trying to be as expeditious as we can.
“It was reported in the national press that the prime minister of Saint Lucia, who was in the plane with our prime minister and the premier of the Turks and Caicos, were on a flight to Marsh Harbour and they had to drop suddenly 500 feet because there was a flight coming right at them, and they were trying to raise the other flight on the radio, and it didn’t happen.
“You’ve got a lot of helicopters. You’ve got a lot of aircraft, and we’re trying to get the towers up so that can help manage the airspace, so it is very busy up there. I advise people, unless you’re going up there for something that’s critical, to stay out of the airspace.”