Mitchell says: Prime Minister refuses to answer questions of hacker pilots

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Hon. Fred Mitchell

STATEMENT BY MITCHELL: I am concerned that the Prime Minister and his government are not taking private airline safety in The Bahamas seriously.  Questions listed below were put on the House of Assembly’s order paper before the summer recess.  The questions were put there by me at the specific request of the Prime Minister, but in answering all other questions in the House of Assembly last week, neither he nor any member of the government addressed these serious questions.

At the time the questions were asked at the end of the summer session, Mr. Ingraham said that he was unaware of a safety issue with the private airlines and would check to see what the position was.  It appears that he is still unaware of what is happening.

The issue becomes more critical with the news that a private plane that crashed in the waters off Grand Bahama on Monday 23rd August was not licensed for commercial traffic and was not insured.  It also appears that the licence of the pilot may not have been current.  It is precisely this indication of a loose regulatory environment that the private pilots are concerned about and the Bahamian public ought to be concerned as well.

I call on the Prime Minister to answer these important questions relating to the safety of the Bahamian flying public forthwith and without delay.

The questions are as follows:

Given the complaints from the pilots working for the non Bahamasair airlines, is the government satisfied about the safety of the non Bahamasair services in the Bahamas: Sky, Cat Island Air, Pineapple, Southern, Lee, Western Air, Performance and other charter operations?

There are questions of violation of the labour laws with reference to overtime work, also people are said to be forced to work beyond the mandated duty time of 14 hours.  Is the Government actively following the labour situation with these non Bahamasair services?

Is the Government satisfied that given the expansion of these services to the Bahamian flying public that it has the resources and manpower to maintain a rigorous regulatory regime?

Is the government aware of the extent to which foreign pilots are being used to substitute for Bahamian pilots and the complaint from Bahamian pilots that this is a safety concern and not necessary given that there is a surplus of Bahamian pilots available to fly, if the non Bahamasair airlines are willing to pay for the training to check off for the particular aircraft?

Is the Government aware of the complaints from the pilots that unqualified persons have been flying in the right seat and that a complaint has been made to the flight inspectorate and no action has been taken to deal with the complaint or at least no public action?

Will the government say what is the finding of the flight inspectorate on the collapsed wheel of a Sky Bahamas aircraft, which occurred earlier this year?

Can the government agree to investigate the complaints of pilots of changing books to eliminate reports of snags made by pilots by one operator?

Will the government agree to speak with representatives of the Bahamas Pilots Alliance and investigate all their concerns?