Union boss defends air traffic controllers following gridlock

A record number of flights coming into Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) hindered the movement of thousands of passengers last week, and Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union President Hinsey McKenzie said in a press release yesterday that a lack of airport capacity, inefficiency and less-than-adequate investment are to blame for ongoing problems that caused the recent challenges at the airport.

McKenzie said in the release that last Thursday at about 5:30 p.m. there were about 80 to 90 aircraft in the air around LPIA and on the ground. He explained that because of the record number of flights coming into the airport, its systems reached a predetermined capacity and “ceased” to function adequately.

“All indicators at this time, the beginning of the winter season of 2018, suggest that 2017 numbers have been and will be totally and significantly eclipsed,” McKenzie said.

He added that air traffic controllers’ policies, procedures, regulations, investment and training are inadequate to support this increase.

“Inasmuch as any of these pillars are deficient, so too is the controller and, in turn, the service that is delivered,” said McKenzie.

“The physical layout and capacity of LPIA is its own demon and has been spoken to, by all and sundry, for decades. Until it changes, there is no reprieve to be got here. Airlines will have to wait for gates, and private and charter companies will have to wait to get to the runways, before waiting for take-off clearance.

“The capacity of the airspace has never been addressed, even though the concern has been raised at numerous junctures in the past.”

McKenzie related airport capacity to an increase in the average daily number of customers coming into a bank, or the average number of patients seeking assistance at a hospital’s accident and emergency department.

He contends that the increase in air traffic was foreshadowed, while the operational wherewithal to deal with the increase remains unaddressed.

“Our efficiency is always compared with that of the USA, yet there is no acknowledgement of, or effort to match the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), in terms of policy, procedures, regulations, training and investment,” McKenzie said.

“Traffic volume and complexity dealt with by Bahamian controllers far exceed all other countries in the region except for Puerto Rico, and only as it relates to volume (Puerto Rico is a part of the FAA).

“Air traffic controllers are doing a tremendous work in less-than-adequate circumstances; our safety record speaks for itself.

“We deserve a seat at the table to determine the ways and means of improving this industry, and we deserve to not be the only entity within this aviation industry not compensated at industry standards, and the least compensated professionals within the LPIA aviation professional community.”

McKenzie said the air traffic controllers will continue to provide their exemplary service through the upcoming, record-breaking winter season, despite the inefficiencies.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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