NASSAU,BAHAMAS — Aviation officials said yesterday the Grand Bahama airport could fully reopen today as investigations into a recent incident get underway.
On Saturday, an American Airlines flight from Miami to Freeport overran the runway just before noon.
According to reports, the Embraer ERJ-145LR, which had traveled from Miami, experienced some mechanical difficulties on the runway after landing and skidded off the runway.
The 25 passengers and three crew members were confirmed to be safe.
Chief investigator of Air Accidents Delvin Major confirmed that a team from the Air Accidents Investigation Department arrived on the island yesterday.
Major said: “My team did leave to go to Freeport to do an investigation. They left a little late because of the weather but they made it in. When they are done with the investigation, a recovery team which I understand is already in Freeport will move the aircraft.
“Once that is done the airport will be reopened. It wasn’t closed totally, just with restricted movement so only certain aircraft were allowed to enter and depart. The large aircraft were not allowed to go in but smaller aircraft were allowed to use the remaining part of the runway. At first light, the airport should be reopened.”
Rexy Rolle, vice-president of operations and general counsel of Western Air, said the airline had to cancel weekend flights on its Freeport route due to the incident.
“We’re aware of the American Airlines aircraft landing on the side of the runway at GBIA on Saturday,” she said.
“Thankfully, there were no serious injuries and overall their aircraft appears intact.
“However, the response has been delayed to restore the airport safely. The runway remains closed as of now, over 24 hours later. Due to the American Airlines runway incident, Western Air was advised to cancel its Freeport flights on Saturday and Sunday, and we’re told they’re unsure if the airport will be open for Monday.”
Rolle said: “We’ve been updated that American Airlines flew in their Airbus 318 (a heavy jet) and it was permitted to land and take off hours ago with their disabled aircraft and moving equipment still on the side of the runway.
“Yet earlier today Western Air, among others, were told the runway remained closed, which was clearly not the case. If AA’s Airbus was permitted to land and did so safely, certainly other aircraft and carriers can do the same.
“We have passengers who were also inconvenienced. It is hypocrisy,” she added.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman Fred Mitchell said in a statement yesterday that it was “incredible” and “simply unacceptable” that 24 hours after the crash landing at the Grand Bahama International Airport, the authorities were unable to open the airport in Freeport.