Bahamas ATC in 2027
FAA plans to help the Caribbean nations
grow their aviation competence & responsibilities
The people of the beautiful islands of the Bahamas have sold Americans on visiting their paradise with the marketing phrase:
“It’s Better in the Bahamas!”
Now the catchy phrase will be tested as to its air traffic control services by virtue of a recently announced agreement with the FAA.
The FAA has in its strategic plans (both Air Traffic and International Affairs) to help the nations of the Caribbean grow their aviation competence and responsibilities. While there may be reasons to question why that geographic region merited such focus, negotiations were initiated three years ago to agree about the management of air space above the Bahamas and a redefinition of air space as it relates to the geographical reality of the archipelago of the Bahamas.
Almost a year ago, representatives of the US FAA and the Bahamas met to begin some transfer of the FIR’s responsibilities.
Although under the normal ICAO standards a Flight Information Region (an airspace of defined dimensions within which Flight Information Service is provided. Essentially within an FIR staff makes available to aircraft advice and information useful for the safe and efficient conduct of flights) is controlled by the sovereign, the US has controlled this airspace even after 1973 when this archipelago nation became independent.
Operation of an FIR is not an exercise of power of particular moment, but it matters to this country. Glenys Hanna-Martin explained “The management arrangement in the first instance we anticipate lead inter alia to a sharing of revenues emanating from over flight fees and the exemption of Bahamas registered aircraft flying in Bahamian air space from the levying of such fees.”
The talks may have been expedited after the People’s Republic of China delegation was given a tour by Minister of Transport & Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin, of the new multi-million dollar Bahamian air traffic control facility at Lynden Pindling International Airport.
On January, 2017 at a press conference Bahamian prime minister Perry Christie announced that “[i]t is expected that a final agreement will be soon reached to govern the terms and conditions of the FAA’s management of Bahamian airspace, initially for a period of 10 years…It is expected the agreement will provide for the first time for the collection of overflight fees by The Bahamas, from aircraft transiting Bahamian airspace.”
Even after an agreement, the FAA will control air traffic in the FIR for at least the next 10 years. That’s significant for safety, but the reasons why the US will retain ATC was not noted in the press conference.
ICAO, not the sternest of auditors when reviewing the countries which pay dues for the operation of this UN organization, found the ATS of Bahamas fell below the global average. A significant deficiency, according to ICAO “indicates that the State is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO Standards.”
The employer-employee relationship has had problems in the Government of the Bahamas and the Bahamas Air Traffic Control Union will minimize future conflicts.
Before the Bahamian ATS is ceded the right to operate the services ICAO and the FAA must be certain that this organization is really competent. The Prime Minister’s statement did not seem to recognize that the transition is far from automatic.
Bradley Roberts: Airspace Agreement will Bring Millions is the headline about which most Bahamians rejoiced; however, Progressive Labor Party leader Bradley Roberts, after several paragraphs of congratulations finally noted what must be done:
“The 10-year transition period allows the Government of The Bahamas to literally create a new industry as it puts the requisite infrastructure and human resources and management systems in place to support the seamless transition to Bahamian management control of Bahamian airspace.
This agreement is part and parcel of the government’s overarching mandate and policy commitment to build and empower our people as we move this country forward together.”
Ten years to develop the human resources and technology is a challenge for the Bahamas government and for the FAA. And by then, hopefully, the Bahamas’ catch phrase will work for the country’s ATS.