Airport probe widens

MINISTER of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz has received the three preliminary reports which he had requested into the unscheduled shutdown of Sangster International Airport (SIA) last Thursday, and has issued instructions to widen the probe.

“I have tasked the chairman and board of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority to conduct an Operation Safety Audit and Assessment of both the SIA and the Norman Manley International Airport,” Vaz told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

He said the result of the assessment of the two international airports is to be on his desk by August 31 and his ministry is prepared to sign off on any support through expertise, post-haste.

“Depending on the outcome of those reports and assessments over further action will be taken and the public be advised accordingly,” added Vaz following what he said was a more than two-hour meeting with key stakeholders in the aviation and tourism industries.

In a subsequent release, Vaz said the meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett; senior advisor and strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright; an airports management team from Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico (GAP) lead by its CEO Raul Revuelta Musalem; president and CEO of the Airports Authority Jamaica (AAJ), Audley Deidrick; acting director general of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Rohan Campbell; as well as other officials from the JCAA and his ministry.

Vaz indicated that he instructed that more stringent oversight must be observed to ensure that there is never a recurrence of this nature.

“The aviation industry has absolutely no room for error and what transpired on Thursday is simply unacceptable,” said Vaz.

“The situations at our two international airports, for different reasons, have the Jamaican people concerned and we have to work overtime to regain the confidence of our people and customers,” he added.

The release noted that the AAJ, JCAA and MBJ Airports Limited, which operates SIA, give an account of the situation, where it was outlined that the closure was a matter of extreme caution to ensure the runway was safe for aircraft to operate, following scheduled upgrade works which were delayed due to poor weather conditions.

This prompted Vaz to instruct that a report must be requested from the contractors, Lagan Aviation & Infrastructure Limited.

For his part, Bartlett pointed to previous reports of Jamaica’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in relation the SIA.

“Undoubtedly, the occurrence of the 10th has created a setback and the Jamaican Government now has the responsibility of building back the confidence of our stakeholders and the public,” said Bartlett.

In the meantime, the release said GAP will deploy its team to conduct an independent assessment of the incident. GAP also reportedly signalled that it is prepared to address issues of compensation in relation to both airlines and passengers, and stand ready to cooperate with the Government in their independent assessment.

No flights could get in or out of SIA between 7:00 am and about 2:30 pm last Thursday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.