Sen. Fred Mitchell
Chairman of The Progressive Liberal Party
The PLP thanks the Christie administration for its vision, leadership, tenacity and hard work over many years that produced this landmark agreement for the management of our Sovereign airspace. We specifically recognize the work of former Aviation and Transport Minister, Glenys Hanna-Martin, who led and had superintendence of this important policy initiative resulting in the signing of the agreement Bahamian management of Bahamian Sovereign airspace.
As this signing yesterday – a conclusion of some of the terms of the reclaim of The Bahamas Sovereign airspace signed by the PLP government on 22nd March of 2017 – was just one component of an overarching and broad vision, it is important to note that the Christie administration worked in focused and determined ways to comprehensively modernize aviation in The Bahamas.
It is however regrettable that the fee exemption for Bahamian airlines and air charters was reversed by the FNM.
Further, the aggressive reform and modernization were undertaken and pursued because we understood the meaning of aviation to economic and social strength in addition to the advancement of our people. The historic airspace agreement was an assertion of not only economic rights (fees) but sovereignty rights for the Bahamian people.
The reclaiming of our Sovereign airspace was the centrepiece of that thrust and after years of determined work, culminating in an historic agreement with the United States of America which included the right of The Bahamas to collect overflight fees. The accord yesterday was the result of negotiations founded and following on this groundbreaking agreement.
To put yesterday’s agreement signing into its proper perspective and context, the scope of the modernization and transformation initiatives executed over the PLP’s last two terms in office included but are not limited to the following:
1)The physical redevelopment of LPIA and 21st century management to its operations – transitioning to a full Bahamian team and training ground for airports throughout the country.
2) the creation of new aviation agencies to create greater efficiencies and enhance safety including the new Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority; the Bahamas Air Navigation Services Division; and separation of Accidents and Investigations;
3) Comprehensive legislative overhaul for the safety and security of aviation in The Bahamas;
4) runway extensions and terminal redevelopment in Bimini and San Salvador, aerodrome enhancement in Staniel Cay, Mayaguana runway enhancements;
5) night flights for Bimini;
6) remediation, completion and renaming of Marsh Harbour Airport (Leonard M Thompson International);
7) completion of architectural plans for a new Exuma terminal;
8) Tecnological advance in acquisition of new state of the art air traffic radar and simulators for training of controllers;
9) construction of new Approach Control Centre (APP Building) with 3D Tower Simulator for training of Controllers in Tower Magement with radar simulator room. We also enhanced capacity of air traffic control by the recruitment of 10 additional controllers;
10) recruitment of trained Bahamian airport managers nationwide;
11) installation of solarized lights for emergency flights on 21 airports throughout the archipelago;
12) signing of more that 20 air service agreements with States worldwide to create legal framework for airlift between The Bahamas and those States.
The tangible results from almost ten years of transformative work and concurrent negotiations with the Federal Aviation Authority for the management of our country’s Sovereign air space prove that the PLP got it right and their detractors and critics were wrong.
The FNM, who for many years did not support Bahamian management of Bahamas sovereign airspace, eventually saw the wisdom and vision in this PLP initiative and got on board rather late in the game, but better late than never.
This management agreement for the collection of overflight fees is another victory for the Bahamian people.